June 26, 2007

Today's Front Pages Analysis

Court's rulings on campaign issue ads, inexplicable student speech reign Supreme

The Supreme Court of the United States — SCOTUS to those in the business — made news yesterday with decisions that affect everyone. The New York Times today leads with “Justices loosen ad restrictions in campaign law” while The Washington Post also leads with “5-4 Supreme Court weakens curbs on pre-election TV ads.” What about the newspaper that you read? We thought that we would do an unscientific survey of a few dailies here and there, collecting material for a doctoral thesis on how and what Page One decisions are made.

Some newspapers agreed with the above approach. For The Herald in Monterey, Calif., the Page One head is “High court loosens political ad rules” even as The Washington Times leads with “Court rules for funding of issue ads.”

But other dailies preferred to highlight a high school free-speech case involving the strange sign reading “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” that we will not attempt to explain. For the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock the lead story is “Alaskan loses at high court on ‘bong’ sign,” up in Alaska the Anchorage Daily News reports “’Bong hits’ student loses,” and the Sun Journal in Lewiston, Maine, tells its readers “’Bong hits’ sign-maker loses case.”

But for many dailies the story of the day is the direction SCOTUS seems to be taking. The Gazette in Colorado Springs says it this way in a top of Page One square off: “Supreme Court takes a right turn” and The Ledger in Lakeland, Fla., notes “Rightward tilt shows in rulings” while The Clarion Ledger in Jackson, MISS states that “Supreme Court’s rulings show conservative shift.” For the Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., the story rates the head “Rulings confirm shape of court under Roberts.” Out in Boise, the Idaho Statesman leads with “5-4 rulings reflect new tilt on high court.”

Then there are the dailies that didn’t feel the various SCOTUS decisions were worth Page One treatment. We looked and looked and found nothing about the decisions on Page One of the Hartford (Conn.) Courant, Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald, South Bend Tribune in Indiana or the St. Paul Pioneer Press in Minnesota. For the San Francisco Chronicle and the East Valley Tribune in Mesa, Ariz., the Supreme Court rates a Page One tease and stories inside.

Gene Mater is a Freedom Forum media consultant.

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