May 1, 2008

Today's Front Pages Analysis

In stagnant economy, money matters on Page 1

How well do newspapers make sense of money news?

A day after the Fed lowered interest rates another quarter percentage point, let’s consider newspapers cited in the general-excellence category of the annual Society of American Business Editors and Writers contest.

“Latest cut may be last for now,” said The Indianapolis Star, which bulleted “What the cut means to you.”

The New York Times combined news of the rate cut with a Commerce Department report on economic growth: “Lower Spending is taking a Toll on the Economy/Growth Held to 0.6%.” The Arizona Republic of Phoenix led with a Christian Science Monitor story on sagging growth: “Grim economy, silver linings/Downturn may last long, but analysts expect it to be mild.” The Boston Globe localized the growth report with information from the University of Massachusetts: “Economy in state outpaces US growth.”

The St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press paired economic stories at the top of its page. “Free food, long line — a sign of the times,” it said about a food giveaway in rural Wisconsin. A second story — “Sellers step back in slow housing market” — centered on the tough Twin Cities housing market. The Detroit News focused on what matters to Michigan, the auto industry: “GM to cut more after $3B loss.”

With rising gas prices and declining home values, economic issues have been a key Page One topic this year. The news continued on other front pages today. “Pain beyond the gas pump” is how the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News titled a package on how business owners pass on to consumers the added expense of gasoline. From ag country, The Bismarck (N.D.) Tribune quoted farmers about rising food prices: “Don’t blame ethanol.” The Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch used arrows to illustrate an “economy just limping along.”

The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal used much of its page to report on federal tax-rebate checks and their potential impact on local counties. The package that included an analysis of IRS and Census data referred to a “Let’s shop local” special section inside, which featured a first-person essay from the local Chamber of Commerce president. In an analysis, the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times noted that “the government has done what it can to boost the economy.” It added: “Now it’s your move.”

Kate Kennedy is front-pages editor at the Newseum.

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