May 5, 2008

Today's Front Pages Analysis

Wherever Myanmar (aka Burma) is, editors go for a killer cyclone

As we flipped through our collection of U.S. front pages, two things struck us.  First, 350 dead in a cyclone is a BIG story to some editors even if it happened in a country that many of our readers never heard of. Second, the “gasoline tax holiday” issue in the U.S. elections is a major item.

The cyclone that killed 350 or more happened in Myanmar, an Asian country that the U.S. State Department and many of us of a certain age prefer to call Burma.  Quick, where is Myanmar or Burma?  That’s a true gotcha question.

As to the gas-tax holiday, Hillary Clinton has proposed canceling the federal tax on fuel during the summer months, while Barack Obama calls it a “bogus gas tax gimmick.”

The Anniston (Ala)Star leads with “Cyclone kills hundreds in Myanmar” but takes a pass on the gas tax, while the Scottsdale Tribune in Arizona does it in reverse, with a Page One story about “Clinton, Obama make final pleas to voters,” including the gas tax. The Sentinel-Record in Hot Springs, Ark., says: “Cyclone kills 350+ in Myanmar” but skips the election, while The Herald in Monterey, Calif., gets both stories on Page One, with a map for all to see about where Burma is.

Aurora (Colo.) Sentinel has a banner headline reporting “Cyclone toll tops 350” and a drop head explaining that “Thousands of homes in Myanmar are destroyed as a powerful cyclone ripped through the nation,” which may get you to turn to Page 9 for the details. The Day in New London, Conn., leads with the Indiana and North Carolina primaries roundup. Just below is “Hundreds are killed by Myanmar cyclone.”

St. Petersburg(Fla.) Times has an election story at the bottom of Page One and nothing about the cyclone, while The Lewiston Tribune in Idaho puts “Obama, Clinton squabble over taxes, policy on Iran” at the top of Page One while giving the cyclone a favored position. The Chicago Tribune leads with “Rivals get grillings on gas, pastor,” as Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Ind., plays up “Crushing cyclone kills 350 in Myanmar” over the “Hoosier homestretch” voting tomorrow. The Boston Globe leads with the election and “Rivals spar on gas tax,” while teasing to the cyclone story inside. The Albuquerque (N.M.) Journal has “Dems bicker over Iran, gas tax” and no cyclone, but The Blade in Toledo, Ohio, leads with the cyclone as do the Amarillo Globe-News in Texas and The Roanoke Times in Virginia.

At break time, we’re going to read the Page One story in The Sun in San Bernardino, Calif., about the last orange grove in Rialto – and the passing of an era.

Gene Mater is a Freedom Forum media consultant.

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