August 21, 2008

Today's Front Pages Analysis

Lightning Bolt strikes in Beijing; storm wallops Fla.

A newspaper’s mission is to inform, enlighten, entertain and engage. With disaster on the front page, today’s priority is to inform.

In Florida, where Tropical Storm Fay is about to make its third landfall, Florida Today broke out numbers as “‘Catastrophic’ flooding” hit the Space Coast. The newspaper promoted online extras and invited readers to contribute their stories, saying: “Help us keep you informed.”

“Lingering storm drenches coast,” The Daytona Beach News-Journal said. In promoting inside coverage, it added, “Find out what’s closed, where to get sandbags and other important information.”

After first moving through Key West, Fay made landfall near Naples, where the Naples Daily News paired a state and a local story today, along with a map charting Fay’s course. The Orlando Sentinel tallied rainfall totals. The Palm Beach Post, which pictured a resident chest-deep in water, promoted the more than 100 additional photos on its Web site and invited readers to submit their pictures. Highlands Today in Sebring reported the first Fay-related fatality.

USA Today noted that the crash of a Spanair plane on Wednesday has “drawn worldwide attention” in a time of unprecedented aviation safety improvements. The crash that killed 153 people dominated Spain’s front-page news, including on El Mundo and Público in Madrid, where the flight originated.

The Plain Dealer of Cleveland devoted much of today’s page to the death of Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio. The Plain Dealer was among many news organizations that prematurely reported the death of the Democratic congresswoman from a brain aneurysm Wednesday afternoon. Tubbs Jones’ family announced her death Wednesday night.

Today’s photo: Usain Bolt of Jamaica set a world record in the 200-meter dash in Beijing, and images of the world’s fastest man appeared on many front pages. The Times of Johannesburg, South Africa, said: “Lightning Bolt Strikes Again.”

Today in history: Aug. 21 marks the 40th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, ending the country’s democratic reform movement called the Prague Spring. Hospodarske Noviny and Lidove Noviny in Prague marked the anniversary, and Mladá Fronta DNES reprinted a photo from the time and referred to a special magazine. Slovakia was part of Czechoslovakia, and SME in Bratislava also noted the anniversary in photo and text.

Kate Kennedy is front-pages editor at the Newseum.

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