July 3, 2008

Today's Front Pages Analysis

If it happens every year, is it news?

The Fourth of July marks America’s independence from imperial British rule, but is it still news 232 years later? Judging from today’s front pages, yes.

The Providence Journal devoted no less than three-fourths of Page One to a "FOURTH OF JULY IN RHODE ISLAND" package, which included three separate stories. The first is about a corrupt politician returning from jail to march shamelessly in a local parade; the second explains a squabble among historic re-enactors involved in a different parade; and the third reports that high gas prices are keeping families home for the holiday. Looks like the reporters have all the angles covered.

The Bakersfield Californian gave over the top half of its front page to holiday coverage focusing on the ever-popular Fourth of July fireworks and problems local nonprofit groups are having selling their sparkly wonders. "FIREWORK FIZZLE?" is accompanied by an enlarged photo of a young boy staring longingly at the tempting incendiaries and a sidebar of "FIREWORKS FACTS," which provides helpful tips about what’s legal and what’s not. Forget the bottle rockets.

Editors and reporters at Maine’s Portland Press Herald have so much to report about Independence Day and its historical significance that they’re running a multi-part series: "CELEBRATING INDEPENDENCE." Today’s installment includes an illustration of Benedict Arnold, an image of a painting of the first naval battle of the Revolutionary War and a modern-day photograph of Fort Popham. Did you know a typical Fourth of July feast for early Americans consisted of salt pork, turtle soup and pigeon pudding? Me, neither.

Instead of articles, the Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times and Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal used large and colorful graphics to provide readers information on local festivities. In Pensacola, those include a hotdog-eating contest, 5k race, parade of boats and play titled, "We The People." Whew, those journalists are going to be busy!

The Bozeman (Mont.) Daily Chronicle, The Boston Globe, New Haven (Conn.) Register and The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch all give the holiday a feature treatment today. In New Haven, the good news: "EXPLODING SALES: Fireworks thrive as booming business for many." In Columbus, the bad: "Choice seats all taken." Darn.

Some papers used the front page simply to alert readers to their coverage inside or online. The San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News placed a colorful strip of fireworks images above its nameplate to prompt readers to "THE WORKS!" -- an online holiday guide with a searchable database of events.

Who knew a perennial story could generate so much news?

Bridget Gutierrez is an exhibits writer at the Newseum.

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