June 25, 2008

Today's Front Pages Analysis

A watershed moment for Florida’s ‘River of Grass’

News of a historic land deal in Florida took up prime real estate on front pages across the Sunshine State today.

In the deal, U.S. Sugar Corp. will sell 300 square miles in the Everglades to the state for $1.75 billion. “It’s part of effort to clean up, restore Everglades, as sugar business hurt by low-priced imports,” The Ledger of Lakeland said.

The Tampa Tribune noted that the Everglades is a subtropical wilderness and home to birds, reptiles, fish and mammals. It has been under attack by development and pollution. The News-Press of Fort Myers labeled its package “Clean and Green” and said: “Pending sale would help park’s healing.” The News-Press provided an online gallery of aerial photos of the land and a video about the impact of the deal.

The Palm Beach Post called the move the “largest conservation land deal in Florida’s history,” bulleted the benefits and the obstacles and printed a color-coded map of south Florida that also was posted online.

In a striking visual, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale pictured the “River of Grass,” as the Everglades is known. Its headline: “It will cost us a river of cash, but the governor says it’s worth it.” From the state capital, the Tallahassee Democrat reported: “Land buy requires no new money.” The Miami Herald pictured Gov. Charlie Crist and the president of U.S. Sugar, who announced the deal.

The St. Petersburg Times told the story behind the story: “Crist offered buyout as U.S. Sugar hit wall,” adding: “He saw a way to aid Everglades as company tried to survive a crackdown on its pollution.” The Times also considered what will happen when the U.S.’s largest sugarcane grower goes out of business in six years: “Sugar would stay plentiful, pricey.” The Sarasota Herald-Tribune looked at Clewiston along Lake Okeechobee. The community of 7,000 -- “America’s sweetest town” -- will be impacted by U.S. Sugar’s closure. “Where sugar is king, future looks bleak,” the Herald-Tribune

The newly redesigned Orlando Sentinel gave a different twist to the story. Picturing the governor on an earlier Everglades tour with John McCain, the Sentinel said, “For Crist, a sweet deal, too,” adding: “Will the Everglades purchase help the governor snag the VP slot?”

Kate Kennedy is front pages editor at the Newseum.

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