September 2, 2008

Today's Front Pages Analysis

Hurricane, pregnancy take the play from GOP convention opening

The grand opening of the convention of the Grand Old Party yesterday should have been the big story today, but two other events took the play on many front pages.

One was the Gulf Coast hit by Hurricane Gustav, whose wrath varied with how far you were from the scene. The other was the announcement that Sarah Palin, presumptive Republican vice presidential nominee, has an unmarried pregnant teenage daughter. And although even the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate suggested that reporters “back off” the pregnancy story, no one really agreed that “people’s children are especially off-limits,” as suggested by Barack Obama.

The New York Times leads with “Spared a direct hit, New Orleans exhales,” with the off-lead “Palin disclosures spotlight McCain’s screening process,” reporting that a vetting team is now in Alaska to check out the candidate. The Washington Post leads with “Hurricane, Palin Roil the Start of GOP Convention” but “New Orleans Levees Tested as Gustav Lashes Gulf Coast” rates a bigger head. Both dailies have storm photos on Page One.

In Alaska, the Anchorage Daily News runs a banner headline “Pregnancy steals spotlight,” although one of the drop heads notes that “Both campaigns call it a private family matter; Palin retains GOP popularity.”

Down where the hurricane hit, the storm was big news. Starting with Louisiana, The Times-Picayune in New Orleans banners “SAFE AT HOME,” adding “No flooding, but massive power outages as Gustav weakens” with a big photo dominating the page.

The lack of power in New Orleans has impacted even the newspaper, which has been reporting and photographing news of Hurricane Gustav. Using a generator, the staff was able to put together a newspaper. But without electricity to power a printing press, the newspaper could not print today’s edition. Instead, it posted images of pages on its Web site.

The Town Talk in Alexandria, La., banners “GUSTAV MARCHES IN” and all the rest of the page is about the storm, and The Advocate in Baton Rouge reports “BR pounded” and warns that “Paper’s delivery may be late.”

In Mississippi, according to the Sun Herald in Biloxi, a one-word banner says it all: “HAMMERED.” The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson goes with “BLOWING THROUGH,” Daily Journal in Tupelo tells its readers that “Gustav slams Gulf Coast,” and The Mississippi Press in Pascagoula heaves a sigh with the banner “County escapes major damage.”

Parts of Texas in the path the storm also played it up, with the Temple Daily Telegram leading with “Waiting for Gustav to fade away,” The Beaumont Enterprise asking “Gustav who?,” adding that “Residents trickle back into town after mandatory evacuation order,” and The Lufkin Daily News warning its readers that “Hard winds and heavy rain expected as hurricane’s effects likely to hit Angelina County.”

Meanwhile in the convention city, the Pioneer Press in St. Paul, Minn., calls it all “Composed…chaotic,” while the Star Tribune in Minneapolis leads with “For GOP, a day of distractions.” The West Central Tribune in nearby Willmar, Minn., offers some hope with the banner “Normal convention could start today.”

Gene Mater is a Freedom Forum media consultant.

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