February 15, 2008

Today's Front Pages Analysis

‘Horror hits home’ in Illinois campus shooting

“2 Minutes of Terror.” “A rapid-fire assault, chaos.”

Bold headlines reported a “Terror on campus,” as a former student opened fire in a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University, killing six and himself.

“Campus Horror,” said the Daily Chronicle in NIU’s community of DeKalb. With details continuing to emerge, the Daily Chronicle’s front page promised updates on the newspaper’s Web site.

“Gunman opens fire in lecture hall, then kills self,” the Chicago Tribune said. “Why?” asked the Chicago Sun-Times. One of the victims was identified by the Daily Chronicle as a staff member of the campus newspaper, the Northern Star. Photos supplied by the Northern Star, including by the newspaper’s journalism adviser, appeared on many front pages.

“No. Not here,” said the Rockford (Ill.) Register Star, about 40 miles northwest of DeKalb. “DeKalb community left shaken after massacre in NIU classroom,” the Journal Star in Peoria, Ill., said. “Father, son recount their harrowing day,” said the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago.

Many subheads became outdated overnight as the number of dead increased. And the shooting did not appear on some U.S. front pages.

From the state capital, The State Journal-Register interviewed a student with local ties who was in a locked-down dorm. From neighboring Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel led with a staff-produced story. The Quad-City Times along the Iowa-Illinois border used its entire page to tell the story.

The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times bulleted “A rash of school shootings.” The Illinois shooting was the fourth at a U.S. school within a week.

“The terrible echoes of Columbine and Virginia Tech sounded again Thursday,” the Rocky Mountain News in Denver said. The Denver Post, which won a Pulitzer for its coverage of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, used a breakout box to explain “What happened” in Illinois.

The Roanoke (Va.) Times, which covered last year’s shooting at Virginia Tech extensively, led with the story, but didn’t overplay it. The Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch stripped the story across the top of the page and noted that the gunman “seemed to know targets.”

kkennedy@freedomforum.org Kate Kennedy is front-pages editor at the Newseum.

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