May 12, 2008

Today's Front Pages Analysis

Stories of loss follow trail of violent weather

The story of tiny Picher, Okla., once a booming mining town, continued its tragic plot as tornadoes hit the northeastern corner of Oklahoma during the weekend.

Severe-weather roundups in newspapers across the U.S. focused on Picher, devastated by a category 4 tornado, and rural Missouri. “Picher toll reaches 7,” said the Tulsa World, which printed two photos — an aerial view of the town and a close-up of two grieving residents.

“Finishing blow to a dying town,” said The Oklahoman, which reported that Picher is “a town torn apart by decades of zinc mining and federal buyouts.”

Picher’s story was picked up elsewhere. The Los Angeles Times printed a five-column photo and said the violent weather was “a final indignity” for a town “that was about to be abandoned under a government buyout program” because of environmental concerns. Said The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post: “It may be death knell for Oklahoma town.” The Danville Register & Bee in rain-soaked Virginia and The Gadsden Times in tornado-prone Alabama were two of many newspapers that used photos from Oklahoma.

The violent weather that hit Oklahoma and Missouri caused damage and death in other states. “More than 20 Killed as Storms Race across U.S.,” The Washington Post said. USA TODAY reported that 2008 is on track to be a record-breaking year for tornadoes. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock and The Anniston Star in Alabama wrote about tornadoes in their areas.

“Mauled by Mother Nature,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said, breaking out damage in metro Atlanta and the impact of a half-dozen tornadoes in Georgia. The Marietta Daily Journal paired state and national roundups, and the Savannah Morning News printed a locally produced story: “Coastal Empire mostly unscathed; southern coast sees heavy damage.”

In Missouri, The Kansas City Star said: “No Safety from Storm.” The Springfield News-Leader pictured what it called resiliency among Missourians and said: “Survivors mourn the dead, pick through remnants of their homes.”

Newspapers outside the stricken areas published an AP report on the storms. The Burlington (Vt.) Free Press used a quote in a sub-headline: “‘I swear I could see cars floating.’” The Houston Chronicle called its weather roundup “stories of loss”: “Between life and death, a matter of minutes.”

Kate Kennedy is front pages editor at the Newseum.

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