The Princess and the Pauper
Different in life and in death

Prince of Wales Collegiate
St. John's, Newfoundland

By Matthew J.

Two modern-day icons died over the course of the past month. The first was Princess Diana who captured the world's heart with her beauty, charm, and enthusiasm. She was the victim of a car crash in Paris a few weeks ago. The other was Mother Teresa, who devoted her entire life to helping the poor. Had these two deaths occurred in different years, either would surely have been the dominant news item of that particular year; however, the fact that both occurred in the same year has caused complications, inevitable comparisons, and a dilemma for the public and the media.

Both of these deaths were indeed tragic, but for different reasons. Diana died at a very young age, leaving behind two young sons, and her death was not at all expected. Television stations all over the world aired coverage from Paris and London on the night of her death, and they continued their in-depth coverage throughout the rest of the week. The response from the public was that of shock and sadness; however, there were still some who claimed that Diana's death bore no more importance than the death of any other person in society. What these people fail to realize is that Diana was an important figure to many people all over the world who admired her. While she was not a saint, she used her position to her advantage and helped out those in need wherever possible. She became the people's princess and her death was therefore a monumental event in modern history.

Since Diana's death began a long series of commentaries, she became somewhat of a saint in her death, similar to Eva Peron. As a result, Mother Teresa's death later received less attention than it would normally have received. Mother Teresa was already an established saint, and her death did not come unexpectedly. However, there are still some who feel that her death deserved more attention than it received. Why did her death not receive more coverage? Was it because people cared more about Diana than about Mother Teresa? Was it because of the media's lifelong obsession with Diana? Was it simply a bad call by the media?

The latter seems to be the most popular opinion, mostly because it is the easiest answer to give. On the day that Mother Teresa died, newspapers and television stations struggled to make the right decision in relation to how the two deaths should be handled. "There were two problems that day," says The Evening Telegram's John Gushue. "First of all, that was the same day that the Queen gave her televised speech ... and, secondly, the whole issue of Diana's funeral was still up in the air." This particular newspaper decided to publish a picture of Mother Teresa holding a baby instead of a picture of both women. "Looking back," says Evening Telegram managing editor Bretton Loney, "I thank my lucky stars that we made that decision, because it came across really well."

Did The Evening Telegram make the right decision? There is no clear answer. The deaths of both women surely deserved front page coverage in every newspaper but the media and the public's fascination with Princess Diana caused many conflicts of interest all over the world. On one hand, Diana deserved the coverage that she received but, on the other, Mother Teresa deserved a lot more than she received. Is this the fault of the media?

The honest answer is no. The media was put in a very tight spot when these two deaths occurred. Newspapers and television stations were so wrapped up in their coverage of Diana that Mother Teresa's death was probably seen as "just another news item" when, at any other time, it would have been the story of the year. This is an unfortunate occurrence but not one that can be blamed squarely on the media. While the entire world mourns the loss of Mother Teresa, it must be said that Diana's death drew the public in because of its uniqueness and because of the special relationship that she had with her public.

These two women should not be compared after their deaths. They were two different people who both made the world a better place than it was when they arrived here, and both deserve much praise. While it was certainly Mother Teresa who gave the most time and attention to her cause, Diana should be admired for going way beyond the call of duty. She used her position as a lady of royalty to support various charities and brighten up the lives of those in need by visiting them and supporting them. As Elton John sings, both women were merely candles in a world full of wind and rain, but their spirits will live on for many years to come.

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