May 23, 2007

Today's Front Pages Analysis

It’s gettin’ hot in ’Bama; flock’s farewell to Falwell

Readers found a Chinese menu of lead stories on today’s front pages – everything from gangs in Georgia to dead goats in California.

Political wrangling over Iraq War policy topped several Page Ones. Most headlines played the development as a concession by Democrats: “Demand for Iraq timeline dropped; Democrats soften on troop pullout and move toward deal with Bush,” Austin (Texas) American-Statesman. New York’s Newsday used a lot fewer words: “Dems Blink.”

In the deep South, editors gave a big play to predictions about the severity of this year’s hurricane season. Bad news meant big headlines: “Outlook is ominous,” Florida Today; “Five major hurricanes forecast,” The Times-Picayune, New Orleans.

On to the as-promised gangs and goats. The Savannah (Ga.) Morning News had the hurricane forecast up top, but gave over the rest of the front page to crime news: “27 gang members yanked off streets.” The ins-and-outs of alleged murders among the the Hitch Village Posse, Waters Avenue Crew and the Gwinnett Street Posse were so complicated, the News had to bust out a flow chart, complete with handy police mugshots. The Oakland (Calif.) Tribune had its own story of murder and mayhem: “15 goats shot dead in Oakland hills.” The poor goats had been decapitated and mutilated. “It’s a baffler,” an animal services officer told the Tribune.

Finally, from the Bible Belt, two very different lead stories. The Anniston (Ala.) Star had “Officials wait on sex toys decision,” an update on the constitutionality of a state law that bans the sale of sex toys. (Readers learned that sex-toy sales can continue until the U.S. Supreme Court weighs in.) But in Virginia, the funeral of the Rev. Jerry Falwell — who famously battled Hustler publisher Larry Flynt all the way to the nation’s top court over sexually charged First Amendment issues — was the big news. The Roanoke Times’ subhead touched on Falwell’s notoriety: “Thousands attend the service for the charismatic, controversial evangelist.” The News & Advance in Lynchburg — home of Falwell’s Liberty University — gave the preacher’s “Final Farewell” its entire Page One.

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

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