July 18, 2007

Today's Front Pages Analysis

Fires, crashes, wrecks fill front pages; Potter fans: Stop reading the news

Brazilian front pages -- often filled with bikini-clad starlets and beloved futbol teams -- today instead were dominated by fiery photos of a deadly plane crash in Sao Paulo. Agora gave over its entire Page One to the Airbus crash and wrapped it up with a universally understandable banner head: "HORROR." Diario de S. Paulo topped its coverage with a graphic on the sequence of the accident and used the reported death toll, which included people in nearby office buildings, as its headline: "191 MORTOS."

Some U.S. newspapers also led with the Brazil crash, but others had backyard tragedies to contend with. The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune ran a striking oversized photo of a young man sitting on an empty railroad track, grieving the death of his cousin. The same spot was the scene of two deadly crashes, 24 hours apart: "TRACKS FATAL AGAIN JUST 1 DAY LATER." Meanwhile, The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle was preoccupied with a serious chemical plant blaze: "FIRE EMPTIES TOWN."

A new report on the terrorist threat got top play in several dailies, but headlines indicated slightly different spins on the report's conclusions (and the spelling of al-Qaida): "Al Qaeda strategy is flawed," Austin American-Statesman; "Revitalized Al-Qaida keeps U.S. in its sights," The Kansas City (Mo.) Star. The St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press' headline was the most alarming of the bunch: "Al-Qaida readying new attack."

Finally, a friendly warning to fellow Harry Potter fans: Stop reading newspapers. Right now. The final installment of J.K. Rowling's book series about the heroic young wizard doesn't hit the streets until July 21, but editors already are putting Potter mania out front. Some stories seemed safe: "Harry's Last Stand," OC Post. Others, not so much: "Pirated copies thicken 'Harry Potter' plot," San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News. If you don't want to know what happens before you actually read the book, there's only one good strategy: total media blackout.

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

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