June 13, 2007

Today's Front Pages Analysis

The case of the wayward watch; Culpeper’s lede a no-brainer

Editors had plenty of national and international stories to choose from to top their front pages: immigration reform, violence in the Gaza Strip, presidential campaign machinations and that old stand-by, the Iraq War. But several Page One editors instead seemed fascinated with a presidential mystery: the case of the wayward watch.

Front-page photo essays in The Bakersfield Californian, Doylestown, Pa., Intelligencer, the Toronto Globe and Mail and other newspapers chronicled the apparent disappearance of President Bush’s wristwatch during his Albanian meet-and-greet on Sunday. The photos showed effusive, affectionate Albanians practically mobbing the president (in a nice way). But the missing watch led Intelligencer editors to wonder: “Did it fall off? Did one of his bodyguards remove it? Or did one of the crowd artfully slip it off his wrist and pocket it?” The Globe and Mail noted that the U.S. State Department has warned tourists to “beware of pickpockets in Albania.” Alas, the truth was fairly anti-climactic. Spokesman Tony Snow told reporters that the president merely had decided to put it in his pocket, and it “returned safely home.”

For true crime stories, editors had to stick close to home, and they weren’t disappointed. Ne’er-do-wells and their homes-away-from-home – otherwise known as jail – were the subject of many Page One pieces today. The San Francisco Chronicle, still fascinated with the fact that celebutante Paris Hilton is sitting in the big house, ran a feature examining the quality of prison chow: “Jailhouse grub gets a bum rap.” The Ventura County Star in California put together a package on “Unusual Suspects,” serial bank robbers who have earned media-friendly names like “The Preppie Bandit,” “The Big Nose Bandit” and – a personal favorite – “The Irreconcilable Differences Bandit, who told a teller “he was forced into a life of crime to pay for his divorce.” In the “nothing is sacred anymore” category, the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal-Star gave its readers “The inside scoop on ICE CREAM MEN.” Apparently, several of these supposedly good-humored men are actually long-time criminals.

Finally, the editors of the Culpeper (Va.) Star-Exponent surely had an easy night picking its lede: “Nude woman crashes truck.” It would be fine to stop there, but the photo bears noting: Police officers holding sheets up to the U-Haul truck – sticking out of the side of a house – to shield Lady Godiva from the shutter-bug.

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

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