March 2, 2007

Today's Front Pages Analysis

Storm stories describe day of devastation in South

Winter roared and mighty winds blew from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast, and violent weather made headlines along its more than 1,200-mile path.

In Alabama, the Montgomery Advertiser proclaimed: “Day of devastation.”  The newspaper told the story of a 16-year-old girl who was inside Enterprise High School with her classmates when the school was hit by a tornado. The story’s lead paragraph: “Emily Balliew is alive today.” The Birmingham (Ala.) News said: “Twisters kill 7 in state, including 5 at school.” “Cataclysmic” was the word across the Opelika-Auburn (Ala.) News.

Photos were important in telling the story. A photo of stunned students at the Alabama school was played on front pages, including the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader.  The Press-Register of Mobile, Ala., pictured destruction at the school and a “chaotic jumble of wreckage” in another southern Alabama community.

In the North, an image from a blizzard that hit the Upper Midwest filled the Duluth(Minn.) News Tribune, which used headlines to reference inside stories.

“Storm smacks state,” said The Des Moines (Iowa) Register, whose writers brought the story to life. “Life-and-death dramas were being played out in Iowa,” its storm story began.

Beyond the weather, there was room for national news. “Chief of Army hospital fired,” The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk said about the commander of Walter Reed Army Medical Center. “Poor outpatient care for soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan cited,” the Los Angeles Times noted.

Worth a close look: The Star Tribune in Minneapolis cleverly illustrated the major winter storm and provided helpful information to readers. “Thank you for reading the Star Tribune,” the polite Midwesterners printed at the bottom of the page.

Favorite headlines: “No Lucky Strikes at the bowling alley?” The Indianapolis Star asked about a proposed ban on smoking. And The Denver Post reported: “Full planes send flier ire higher.”

kkennedy@freedomforum.org Kate Kennedy, a former newspaper Page One editor, is director/partnerships and initiatives.

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