April 20, 2009

Today's Front Pages Analysis

Gonzales squirms across Page One; Tech coverage continues to evolve

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' Senate testimony about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys took the top national news slot in many U.S. dailies. The gist of the coverage: Gonzales endured a grueling inquisition by the Judiciary Committee, and editors' photo choices communicated that idea instantly. The Providence (R.I.) Journal went with an image of Gonzales, sitting alone at a table, surrounded on all sides by photographers and hearing attendees. The New York Times went with a three-shot series of Gonzales during his testimony, his expressions alternately showing resolve and resignation. Speaking of resignation, some headline writers thought his might be on the way: "GOP support melts away as Gonzales faces the heat," The Kansas City (Mo.) Star; "Gonzales clings to job," The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky.

U.S. front pages again gave over a lot of real estate to the Virginia Tech shootings. New facts, new angles and new images made for a lot of variety. An AP story about the emerging profile of the killer as a "textbook case of a school shooter" got a lot of play. But several newspapers shifted gears a bit to look at ways to prevent another similar tragedy. The Lincoln (Neb.) Journal-Star put together a big package titled "If you spotted a troubled youth, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?" The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville went with "Virginia Tech slayings: Anti-bullying bill call intensifies."

Other editors turned the lens on themselves to examine the wall-to-wall media coverage. The Cleveland Plain Dealer led with a story on a father's plea to reporters to "remember victims, not shooter" — 'Focus on life, love, light.'" Boston's Metro ran with a photo of a sign found on campus that read "VIT Stay Strong, Media Stay Away." Virginia newspapers focused on today's designation as an official day of mourning for the victims and stuck with simple, stark front-page designs: "Hokie Nation," Link, Hampton Roads.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal had the Gonzales and Tech news out front, but it found a little room at the bottom to give its readers a smile. The headline: "Donkey testifies on own behalf in dispute about doo and noise." The nut graf: "Buddy the donkey appeared in court Wednesday. He walked to the bench and stared at the jury, the picture of a gentle, well-mannered creature and not the loud, aggressive animal he had been accused of being." The feel-good close: "Despite the donkey's appearance, neither jurors nor Buddy had the last say — the neighbors settled their dispute."

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

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