May 1, 2007

Today's Front Pages Analysis

April is the cruellest month in Iraq; murder, mayhem and a madam

The headline writer for the Ledger-Enquirer in Columbus, Ga., echoed the famous opening line of T.S. Eliot’s 1922 poem “The Waste Land” with today’s headline about the Iraq death toll: “Iraq’s cruel April.” Editors judged it cruel, indeed, as many of them gave the top national news slot to the fact that 104 U.S. troops were killed during April, making it the 6th-deadliest month since the war began. The Ledger in Lakeland, Fla., put a lot of illustration into the AP report on troop deaths, running big photos of a car-bomb crater in Baghdad and a soldier on patrol in Mosul. The Intelligencer in Doylestown, Pa., had an opportunity, as so many dailies have had, to localize the Iraq War story. The headline read simply “Local Marine killed in Iraq,” as the editor chose to display prominently a relative’s quote that conveyed the story much better: “If there were more people like Travis Manion, the world would be a better place.”

On the domestic front, the news wasn’t much better. Several newspapers had particularly grisly tales of murder out front. The Hartford (Conn.) Courant led with “Chilling Tales in Brutal Death,” an account of two roommates charged with beating a woman to death and stuffing her body into a cardboard box. The Tampa Bay Times’ top story, “It’s Not Over, Creeps,” gave readers a look at two men who allegedly killed another man, cut up his body, and dumped parts in trash bins around the city. (Neither of them has been charged with murder.) The New York tabs were taken with the testimony of a woman who said she was attacked by a man dressed as a firefighter on Halloween: “Fire fiend sex attack: MY 13 HOURS OF HELL,” New York Post.

War — check. Murder — check. On to sex … The so-called “D.C. Madam” story began showing up outside the Beltway today, as news that Deborah Jeane Palfrey — accused of running a Washington prostitution ring — began talking to the media. The Los Angeles Times fronted an update on Palfrey, emphasizing her claim that her client list reaches “high into the echelons of power.” The Ventura County Star had its own sexy scandal to cover on Page One: “Photo shoot at Ventura fire station gets too hot.” (Firefighters claim they kicked the ladies out once the women started taking off their clothes for the camera.)

Finally, no day of front-page perusal is complete without a crazy animal story. Today we found two. The Los Angeles Daily News had “Reclusive runaway reptile resurfaces after 18 months,” an update on Reggie the alligator, again spotted cruising through Lake Machado. The Detroit News kept continuing car-industry woes up top, but carved out a big spot for the tabloid-esque story “COYOTES STALKING OUR STREETS.” The key quote from a state biologist, sure to strike fear into the state’s McMansion dwellers: “Even though we say in Michigan that we don’t know of anyone who’s ever been attacked by a coyote, it’s only a matter of time.”

Christy Mumford Jerding is the editorial director of the Freedom Forum.

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