September 25, 2007

Today's Front Pages Analysis

Columbia University vs. Iran makes for Page One news today

Controversy is a good way to assure newspaper coverage, and major controversy can make it to Page One. Controversy was what the visit of the Iranian president to Columbia University was all about.  There was the controversy about the invitation to the head of a “terrorist state” to visit a major American university, there was the “insulting” introduction of the visitor and then there was what the speaker said and didn't say. Lee C. Bollinger, Columbia’s president, started the ball rolling with the combative introduction of the visitor, observing, among other things, that “Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator.” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took it from there.

The New York Times has a four-column photo of students and protesters and a story with the headline, “Ahmadinejad, at Columbia, parries and puzzles,” while The Washington Post has two Page One photos and the headline, “Ahmadinejad’s day one in New York: A hostile reception, a rambling talk.”  Before checking other U.S. dailies, we thought we might see how the Iran Daily is playing the Columbia story. It’s not. There’s an almost-500-word story about Ahmadinejad but not a word about Columbia. Instead, the piece is about meeting with expats and an interview with the AP, all under a headline promising “no attack on Israel.”  The Jerusalem Post in Israel doesn’t agree, offering the banner headline, “Ahmadinejad avoids question of destroying Israel,” while playing up the protests of the Columbia students.

Back to the U.S. and starting with The Honolulu Advertiser, we find “Iran leader runs into New York backlash,” with the photo of the Iranian leader with finger upright that seems to be a favorite of editors. The Los Angeles Times has large photo of protesters and a story that “Iranian leader receives rough reception in N.Y.”  And that’s the way it is across the country, for the Chicago Tribune, The Denver Post, The Boston Globe and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Interest in the story wasn’t universal.  It didn’t make Page One of the Detroit Free Press, where the General Motors strike was the only story of the day, or The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Christian Science Monitor and other dailies.

Gene Mater is a Freedom Forum media consultant.

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