Friday, September 14, 2007
The first thing you ask yourself when covering this story is why Madeleine?
Why is there focus on this one particular girl when the sad truth is countless children are currently missing around the world?
The simple answer is that this is exactly what her parents Kate and Gerry McCann wanted.
With Madeleine gone the parents were keen to ensure she wasn’t forgotten. Her picture was placed in virtually every shop in Europe, a plea for information came from football star David Beckham and her parents even had a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI.
But with their change in status to suspects in the disappearance of their own daughter, the media interest cannot be switched off.
Once courted, it is unshakeable.
Especially as unnamed sources and speculation are rife, hard facts are elusive and the Portuguese police say little officially.
Kate and Gerry can only protest their innocence in the disappearance of the now instantly recognizable Madeleine McCann.
One thing that strikes me is the courtesy the British media in Portugal has shown for Kate and Gerry.
Many of them accompanied the McCanns around Europe in their quest to keep the search for their daughter alive.
As Kate and Gerry individually walked the gauntlet of cameras, journalists and paparazzi into the police station in the Portuguese town of Portimao, there were the usual calls for a comment, a request to turn around for a photo, but the word “please” was used on more than one occasion.
In the intense 10-second window the media usually gets after waiting hours to take a shot, these niceties rarely emerge.
Jeering and whistling from some Portuguese onlookers were countered by shouts of “we believe you Kate” from British holidaymakers.
The McCann PR machine has done an unprecedented job of putting the McCanns and their missing daughter on the front pages. The problem for the couple now is that by encouraging international interest, any request for privacy will fall on deaf ears.
-- From CNN International Correspondent Paula Hancocks in Portimao, Portugal.
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