July 3, 2007

Today's Front Pages Analysis

President spares Libby from jail; doctors tied to British terror plot

Had the nation’s editors gathered late yesterday to decide what belongs on Page One, there would have been a general albeit not unanimous show of hands for two stories: the president’s commuting of Scooter Libby’s jail sentence and the continuing saga of terrorist activities against British airports and possibly the effects on U.S. travel.

Typical is today’s Ventura County Star in California, with a top-of-the-page square off reporting “Bush commutes Libby prison sentence” and a one-column head below that noting that “Terrorism suspects traced overseas.” The Sentinel-Record in Hot Springs, Ark., prefers two below-the-fold stories: “Bush commutes Libby’s sentence” and “Police identify two suspects in terror plot as Iraqi, Palestinian physicians.” The Denver Post whoops up “Libby move reaps whirlwind” with a one-column story below that reporting “Australia arrests 1 in U.K. terrorism.”

In the nation’s capital, The Washington Post tells all that “Bush commutes Libby’s prison sentence” with the one-column lead below that advising that “Bomb plot suspects are foreign physicians,” updating the story that only made it to page 15 yesterday with a front-page tease. The New York Times leads with the four-column head “Bush commutes Libby sentence, saying 30 months ‘is excessive’ ” while yesterday’s lead is at the bottom of the page: “Medical workers emerge as focus in British inquiry.” The South Bend Tribune out in Indiana went the other way, leading with “Brits say physicians involved in terror plots “ and “No Libby prison time, Bush says” below that.

For The Sun in Baltimore the lead is “Bush spares Libby from prison term,” with “Mideast doctors held in British terror plot.” Even in Hyannis in Mass, the Cape Cod Times plays up “Bush commutes Libby’s prison sentence” and below that the British story with a big, all-caps head that seems to be jiggling as you read “SECURITY JITTERS.” The Las Vegas Review-Journal tells its readers “Bush spares Libby jail time” and “Doctors suspected in U.K. terror plot.”

Up in Alaska they do it differently. Those two big stories are teased to inside pages while across the top of Page One of the Anchorage Daily News we find “Young bear makes downtown rounds” with the lead “A brown bear ambling around downtown Anchorage has been keeping wildlife authorities busy this week.” We guess you have to be there to appreciate that one.

Gene Mater is a Freedom Forum media consultant.

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