June 20, 2007

Today's Front Pages Analysis

Firefighters’ heroic battle, loss told in single image

Nine firefighters died battling a South Carolina furniture warehouse fire. But it was the image of a lone firefighter that told the story on today’s front pages.

From Savannah, Ga., to Fresno, Calif., the photo of a firefighter pausing for a moment dominated Page One. The Associated Press photo taken by a Charleston photographer also led USA TODAY, which pulled the quote: “We will never forget.”  The deadliest day for firefighters since 9/11 also led The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post and The Sun in Baltimore. The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer focused on the image of a tearful fire chief.

South Carolina newspapers balanced their coverage of the fire’s aftermath with another big story: the indictment of the state’s treasurer on federal cocaine charges. The State of Columbia printed news of the indictment above its nameplate and devoted the remainder of its page to the firefighters’ deaths. The Herald of Rock Hill began both stories at the top of the page and relegated its most important city story to an inside-the-newspaper reference.

“Mike’s big move” made the New York tabloids, which reported Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s departure from the Republican Party and possible presidential run as an independent.

Headline writers’ prayers were answered when news from the Vatican -- “Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road” -- gave them an opportunity to have some fun. The San Antonio Express-News scrolled the “10 commandments of the road” across its front page with the headline: “Thou shall not drive like a goof.” Other heavenly offerings:

  • Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel: “Thou shall not hog road and drive like a jerk.”
  • The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Vatican prays motorists will avoid sins of the road.”
  • Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Little Rock: “Vatican tries back-seat driving.”

An archeological find in Peru prompted The Philadelphia Inquirer to ask: “The first gunshot victim in the Americas?” Said the Los Angeles Times about the discovery from the 16th century: “Inca warrior’s wound tells another tale of conquest.”

kkennedy@freedomforum.org Kate Kennedy, a former newspaper Page One editor, is director/diversity programs.

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