April 17, 2007

Today's Front Pages Analysis

One story matters today: Tech shootings reverberate around the world

Newspapers all over the world share a universal truth today: No matter what else is happening, the shooting deaths of 33 students at Virginia Tech made Page One.

For Virginia newspapers, no headline was too bold, no photo too large. The Roanoke Times, the closest major daily to Blacksburg, gave over its entire front page to “Massacre on campus: Worst shooting in U.S. history.” Its major art was a photo of police carrying a wounded person across campus. The Richmond Times-Dispatch went with the emotional reaction of Virginians to the shootings, picturing a tearful woman embracing a student, under the huge headline “HORROR.” The Bristol Herald Courier juxtaposed the campus’ peaceful, bucolic image with yesterday’s bloodshed: “Terror at Tech: Deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history shatters Virginia Tech campus.” The photo showed an armed police officer, silhouetted against a beautiful blue sky, in front of Norris Hall, the site of many of the deaths.

Elsewhere around the nation, oversized, stark, often all-caps headlines told the story: “SCHOOL SHOOTING LEAVES 33 DEAD,” The Anniston (Ala.) Star.  “CAMPUS CARNAGE,” The Morning News in Rogers, Ark., and The Denver Post.  “DEVASTATED,” The Bakersfield Californian. “BLOODBATH,” Los Angeles Daily News. “Campus massacre,” Kokomo (Ind.) Tribune. For The Sun in Baltimore, one word across the top of Page One said it all: “MASSACRE.”

It was no different in many other countries. Time differences in Asia resulted in an earlier death toll for the lead stories in the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong, leading with “22 die in gun rampage at American university,” and The Times of India in New Delhi with “Gunman kills 22 on US campus.” The story is all over Page One of Primera Hora in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, as it is in Amazonia Hoje in Belem, Brazil.

The killings were top news in many European newspapers as well, with the banner head in The Guardian in London reporting “Massacre on the campus.” The Irish Independent in Dublin went with “Student Slaughter.” On the continent, most of the front page of the Kleine Zeitung in Graz, Austria, was used for a photo and the headline “Massacre in the lecture room.”  The Bremer Nachrichten in Germany used an unusual approach for an unusual story, spreading at the top of Page One a CNN photo and report in English: “Breaking News. Police: Gunman dead; investigating whether he shot himself.”  Meanwhile, Gulf News in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, tells its readers “Carnage on US campus” while the Namibian in Windhoek, Namibia, reports “At least 32 die in college shooting.”

It’s a sad story, and it’s one that newspapers are reporting to their readers in different ways and in a multitude of languages all over the world today.

Gene Mater is a Freedom Forum media consultant.

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