June 23, 2008

Today's Front Pages Analysis

Election crisis in Zimbabwe rates some Page One coverage

We weren’t surprised to find The New York Times and The Washington Post leading with the election mess having reached crisis stage in Zimbabwe. However, we wondered how other American dailies would treat the story, if at all. How many readers know that Zimbabwe is the former Southern Rhodesia, a landlocked country just north of South Africa, ruled by a tyrant for 28 years who has economically ruined the country so that if we were to print the inflation rate here you would consider it a typo? All right, the International Monetary Fund early this year pegged the inflation rate at more than 150,000 percent. That’s right, 150,000 percent.  Not a typo.

The Anniston (Ala.) Star is typical of many, teasing the story on Page One with details inside, as was done by The Arizona Republic in Phoenix, The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle, the Idaho Statesman in Boise, The Boston Globe and The Dallas Morning News. However, The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., decided to lead with the story, as did the Arkansas Democrat Gazette in Little Rock, while The Blade in Toledo, Ohio, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and the Chicago Tribune found space for less-than-lead stories on Page One.

From Africa, The Namibian in Windhoek, Namibia, leads with the Zimbabwe story, giving much of Page One to coverage.

Comedian George Carlin died yesterday, the timing such that the story didn’t make too many front pages this morning. However, Carlin’s death is on Page One of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, The Gazette in Colorado Springs, Colo., and other dailies. The Los Angeles Times has the story on Page One with the headline “Comedian tested limits of speech and society.” To those of us in broadcasting at the time, Carlin will always be remembered as having sparked a Supreme Court decision in July 1978 holding that the First Amendment doesn’t prevent the government from prohibiting the broadcast of “patently offensive” words that fall short of a constitutional definition of obscenity, a ruling as controversial today as it was 30 years ago and facing new court challenges in the months ahead.

Gene Mater is a Freedom Forum media consultant.

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