October 9, 2007

Today's Front Pages Analysis

Newspapers speak our language and make themselves heard

Alexis de Tocqueville, whose 1840 book about the emerging U.S. democracy has been acclaimed by some as the best work written by the citizen of one country about another, said of the American newspapermen of his day that “They certainly are not great writers, but they speak their country’s language and they make themselves heard.” We won’t debate the language issue, but we thought we’d do a sampling of how they are making themselves heard.

We found two dailies at opposite ends of the country complaining about the high price of eating, and both did it by asking the reader similar questions. For The Sun in San Bernardino, Calif., the question is “Had your fill?” and sort of answers by warning that “Food inflation shows no signs of stopping.” For the Star-Banner in Ocala, Fla., the question is “Higher grocery bill?” and answers with “Blame China and biofuels.” Two newspapers almost a continent apart found news in Google, with the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson whooping up the fact that “Google installs Tucson on the (interactive) map,” claiming that “Street-level look at Old Pueblo puts our city in exclusive category” while The Atlanta Journal-Constitution tells everyone that “Google makes oodles for investors.”

Other dailies focus in telling ways about local issues. For The Wichita Eagle in Kansas much of Page One is devoted to “Defeating the stereotypes,” reporting how the “The lives of many young black men show what it takes to succeed,” while The Daily Times in Salisbury, Md., reports how “Winning teacher tries to make middle school fun.” The Star Tribune in Minneapolis takes on “The decision by St. Thomas not to invite Desmond Tutu to speak reflects a recurring tension at colleges nationwide.” Two dailies many miles apart play up a Nobel Prize winner, The Salt Lake Tribune because that’s where he is based and The Intelligencer in Doylestown, Pa., because he grew up and went to a famous school in the area.

Meanwhile, the Journal Star in Peoria, Ill., says it with the picture of day, six small boys looking up at the rigging of a modern-day version of Columbus’ ship, six small boys with mouths and minds open in amazement.

We hear and understand.

Gene Mater is a Freedom Forum media consultant.

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