August 21, 2007

Today's Front Pages Analysis

Dean hammers, rattles and rolls; Americans love to pop those pills

Weather continued to dominate U.S. front pages today as deadly Hurricane Dean turned toward Mexico. Many headline writers zeroed in on the fact that Dean had reached a Category 5 level; headlines such as “Dean hammers Mexico” and “Dean thrashes Yucatan” were common.

Deadlines came into play as editors tried to get latest news on the storm’s progression before the presses rolled. Some looked ahead at the storm’s projected path: “Category 5 storm targeting Mexico,” The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Miss.; “Hurricane Dean has Yucatan in its sights,” The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La. Others focused on storm preparations: “Thousands in Mexico flee massive Hurricane Dean,” The San Diego Union-Tribune. While many Gulf Coast newspapers adopted “how will it affect us” angles, so did The Frederick News-Post — in Maryland, which, as you geography buffs know, is on the Atlantic coast: “Will Dean’s force affect Frederick?” Mexico’s Diario de Yucatan had the real front-row seat: “Furia devastadora” — “Devastating fury: Dean punishes the south peninsula with all its force.”

Tabloids and mainstream dailies alike continued to give big play to NFL star Michael Vick, who chose to plead guilty in his federal dog fighting case. The OC Post’s headline read “Mr. Vick has agreed to enter a plea of ... guilty,” but the design made sure the reader’s impression was a photo of Vick with a huge “GUILTY” sign across his neck. The New York Post pulled out some trademark wordplay: “CON VICK.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution had a similarly arresting front-page image — Vick’s face split in two, one side encased in a helmet, the other marked by a single diamond earring. Its headline topped a think piece on a once-promising career: “The Rise and Fall of Michael Vick.”

Finally, an Associated Press report on U.S. prescription drug use captured several Page One editors’ attention: “U.S. gets hooked on pills,” read the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle’s banner head. Retail sales of five major painkillers — spurred by the popularity of Oxycodone — have doubled over the last eight years, according to an AP analysis of drug-sales data. Readers apparently need only look to the McMansion next door for the average addict. Researchers found that painkiller popularity has exploded through the suburbs — the old moniker of “hillbilly heroin” no longer applies.

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

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