April 11, 2007

Today's Front Pages Analysis

Imus story blows up but good; famous home caught in ring of fire

Radio host Don Imus’ foot-in-mouth disease went from a front-page teaser yesterday to a Page-One leader today in many major dailies. But the focus shifted from Imus’ two-week suspension to the Rutgers University women’s basketball team, who held a press conference to respond to the broadcaster’s characterization of them as “nappy-headed hos.”

Photos of the players told readers what they needed to know, before ever reading a word of the story. The young women, in uniform and seated in a row, were captured by Reuters and AP shooters in similar shots that were picked up by several Page One editors. Their faces showed the range of emotions described verbally: anger, hurt, resolve. The Sun in Baltimore said that Imus’ remark had tarnished Rutgers’ accomplishment: “Controversy steals shining moment.” Other headlines focused on the team’s response: “Class, not crass,” The Record, Hackensack, N.J. The Daily News in New York gave huge props to how the women conducted themselves: “These young Rutgers women yesterday displayed one quality Don Imus doesn’t have: DIGNITY.”

On the local front, newspapers carried plenty of front-page staples today, such as school board votes, car crashes and fires. But The Tennessean had a unique fire story that spoke to the heart of its Music City residents: “Fire Destroys Cash’s Former Home.” The Hendersonville, Tenn., homeplace of the late Johnny Cash was destroyed by fire yesterday. A large photo revealed that the home, beloved by the Cash family and musicians who spent many happy times making music there, was a total loss. The owner, the Bee Gees’ Barry Gibb, wasn’t home at the time and no one was hurt. The top story of the Record Searchlight in Redding, Calif., was a reminder that it could have been worse: “ALL SIX ARE GONE. Officials investigate fire that reportedly killed Happy Valley family.”

Sports fans got more bad news from the Tennessean’s front page today: “Pacman’s loss felt beyond the field.” The NFL has suspended “valuable” but “troubled” Titans player Pacman Jones for the 2007 season, under new rules meant to clamp down on poor off-field behavior. Titans fans weren’t alone. Cincinnati Enquirer readers found out that Bengals player Chris Henry got sacked for eight games. He’s had four arrests in six months.

Christy Mumford Jerding is the editorial director of the Freedom Forum.

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