May 6, 2008

Today's Front Pages Analysis

Numbers make the difference as cyclone toll makes Page 1

Numbers make the difference. Yesterday, when the death toll stood at 350 for the cyclone in Burma (aka Myanmar), a few U.S. dailies carried the story on Page One. Today, with the guesstimated toll in the multiple thousands, it’s Page One news on an international basis.

Starting with The Washington Post, which carries a banner headline “Burma says storm killed 15,000,” and The New York Times, which leads with “Myanmar reels as cyclone toll hits thousands,” we thought that we would play hopscotch with the dailies on our Web site.

The same photo appears at the top of the page of Der Tagesspiegel in Berlin, Germany, with an off-lead story, “Thousands dead after cyclone in Burma,” and the Salzburger Nachrichten in Salzburg, Austria, which refers to 10,000 dead. Prazsky Denik in Prague, Czech Republic, has a small story about the cyclone, while Taxydromos in Volos, Greece, has a picture and a story about 10,000 dead. The Irish Examiner in Cork, Corriere della Sera in Milan, Italy, AD in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and El Periodico in Barcelona, Spain, all play up the cyclone, all refer to 10,000 dead and all carry photos. AD offers a map for those uncertain about where to find Burma. The Guardian in London also leads with the cyclone, with the headline, “Burma seeks emergency aid as cyclone kills at least 10,000” and photo of the devastation.

And in Asia, the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong has as its off-lead “Myanmese cyclone leaves 10,000 dead,” Manila Standard Today in the Philippines has the headline “Cyclone kills 3,969 in Myanmar” above the nameplate, and The Chosun Ilbo in Seoul, South Korea, has a Page One photo. The Nation in Bangkok, Thailand, leads with “Toll to rise by thousands,” and The Wall Street Journal Asia in Hong Kong leads with “Myanmar cyclone kills at least 4,000.” Farther south, The Age in Melbourne, Australia, has a photo topped by “Burma devastated/‘It’s clear that this is a major disaster.’”

Finally, in the Middle East, Gulf News in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, has a picture and the lead story “Cyclone toll hits 10,000” and the English-language Iran Daily in Tehran has a Page One piece reporting “Cyclone Nargis kills thousands in Myanmar.”

And is it Myanmar or is it Burma? The U.S. government calls it Burma and so do dailies. In Europe, it’s some form of “Burma” but not Myanmar. An in Asia, it’s either one. When we sing Kipling’s “Road to Mandalay” in the shower it will always be Burma to us.

Gene Mater is a Freedom Forum media consultant.

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