May 30, 2008

Today's Front Pages Analysis

Solving mystery of Stonehenge: Headstones make headlines

Everyone loves a good mystery. And when a mystery is solved, well, that’s Page One news.

“Secret of Stonehenge solved?” the Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World asked after British archeologists on Thursday announced that the circle of large stones in southern England is an ancient burial ground. “Elusive Truth Dug Up,” The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post said.

Stonehenge has a mystique that has fascinated tourists for decades, so the announcement of “another mystery unmasked” was found on front pages far and near (although not on United Kingdom pages in our exhibit).

The Hartford (Conn.) Courant made the largest display of the news that the site was a burial ground for a royal dynasty. “Solving Stonehenge,” it said in a package that included a timeline, illustrations and a photo.

The Washington Post, which loves a good investigation, focused on sleuthing by archaeologists: “Conclusion Runs Counter to Long-Held Theories.” The Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal described the use of radiocarbon dating on cremated bodies and said: “A Royal Clue.” “The findings indicate that kings ruled part of Britain long ago,” The Blade in Toledo, Ohio, noted. “Mystery of Stonehenge continues to unravel,” the Anchorage (Alaska) Daily News said.

Photos of the familiar stones played an important part in sharing the news. The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Gazette in Colorado Springs and The Seattle Times used silhouettes. The Register-Guard of Eugene, Ore., let the stones stand on their own in its image.

The Los Angeles Times used a photo on Page One, but the Times story appeared on other front pages, including the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press, which used a graphic headline: “Solved.” Other newspapers, including The Providence (R.I.) Journal, used a photo to refer to a story inside.

There always are doubters, which might explain why some front pages used question headlines. The Star Tribune of Minneapolis asked: “Stonehenge, marker for dead royalty?” while the St. Louis (Mo.) Post-Dispatch asked: “A royal cemetery?” And from the Milwaukee (Wis.) Journal Sentinel: “Was Stonehenge really headstones?”

Kate Kennedy is front pages editor at the Newseum.

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