February 27, 2008

Today's Front Pages Analysis

Active verbs, battlefield nouns describe presidential debate

Accuracy and fairness depend upon precision in writing and editing. Let’s check on word choices in today’s coverage of the 20th presidential debate with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

“Final showdown,” said The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, which has had strong coverage leading up to the last debate before the Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont primaries on March 4. The words “polite” and “pointed” were used by the Springfield (Ohio) News-Sun and the San Antonio Express-News to describe comments by the candidates. USA Today used “Tense,” while The Washington Post called the debate “Contentious.” The Lima (Ohio) News used “Clash,” as did The New York Times.

The Austin (Texas) American-Statesman chose the word “skirmish.” The Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram broke out accusations and used the verb “spar.” The Daily News of New York summed it up: “Fire and nice.”

The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch fact-checked the 90-minute debate at Cleveland State University: “Exaggerations part of dialogue.”

A few headlines were generic enough to seem like they were written beforehand, and a few Ohio newspapers didn’t carry the debate on the front page.

Almost 600 miles away, The Burlington (Vt.) Free Press said: “Candidates take on harder edge in debate.” Winter weather caused problems in the Midwest and New England. The Free Press used its words well: “Snow Day, Tow Day.” And in Rhode Island, The Providence Journal predicted, “Tight race may fire up R.I. voters.”

John McCain apologized Tuesday after a Cincinnati radio talk-show host insulted Obama and Clinton. “Cunningham’s warm-up act turns McCain cold,” The Cincinnati Enquirer said.

In South Florida, where power was knocked out, the Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale led with “Power Puzzle.” Of the blackout that affected areas from Daytona Beach to the Keys, it asked: “Why so big?” The Palm Beach Post mapped the “Anatomy of an outage,” and The Miami Herald tied pictures to a timeline of the “Daytime Nightmare.”

The U.S. government’s release of economic reports brought money issues back out front. “Analysts fear $4 a gallon,” The Oregonian of Portland said about gasoline prices. “Cost of getting by keeps getting higher,” said the Los Angeles Times, which graphed a “Sinking mood” among consumers.

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

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