July 25, 2008

Today's Front Pages Analysis

477 miles, 7 days, 2 wheels and one statewide story

NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa — The Des Moines Register is peddling its newspaper to tens of thousands who are pedaling across the Hawkeye State this week.

A special edition of the Register is being distributed free to participants in the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. RAGBRAI lures bicyclists from far and near to ride more than 450 miles from west to east across Iowa.

The tour, the “longest, largest and oldest touring bicycle ride in the world,” is chronicled in detail by the Register, the sponsor, and other Iowa newspapers.

Twenty-eight Register staffers — including editorial cartoonist Brian Duffy — have been involved in RAGBRAI coverage this week, said Carolyn Washburn, editor. The daily special edition, offered to bikers staying in campgrounds and inserted into single-copy papers, includes maps, photos and details about the eight communities that serve as stops along the route. Several pages of coverage are being included in the regular newspaper.

“This and the state fair are two enormous, charming community gatherings that involve the whole state in the summer,” Washburn said.

From western Iowa, the Sioux City Journal on Tuesday wrote about where RAGBRAI is not – its county — the result of a lawsuit over a death in an earlier ride. From central Iowa, the Press-Citizen of Iowa City, which incorporated a bicyclist into its nameplate, has had front-page coverage each day. The Times-Republican in Marshalltown focused most of its coverage on Wednesday’s stop in its county, and today’s Gazette from Cedar Rapids looked at Thursday’s 76-mile stretch.

As riders reach eastern Iowa, the story is headed for the Quad-City Times in Davenport. One of the newspaper’s reporters will be riding with colleagues positioned at the start and end of the 53-mile last leg.

Other journalists also are getting into the story by riding along. At a time when war, economic troubles and other tensions are in the news, Washburn said, it’s especially important to say, “Let’s all have fun.”

Duffy, a biking enthusiast, is blogging from behind the handle bars, and the Register’s Web site includes other creative content — from a “shoutout” feature to an interactive quiz to historical pictures. An interactive map helps riders plan their route. Riders can post comments and photos.

Coverage of the tour, Washburn said, “highlights and validates and showcases those small communities across the state” that welcome riders. She said she believed that a newspaper should challenge and celebrate its community. “This is one of those moments you can unabashedly celebrate the community.”

A tour of his own: Barack Obama spoke to a crowd of approximately 200,000 people Thursday at a stop in Berlin. “In Berlin, a call to renew bonds,” the Chicago Tribune said. Proclaimed the Chicago Sun-Times: “Wunderbar!” A number of papers used a photo showing the presidential candidate before the large crowd, and Obama was on Page One across Germany. The Denver Post printed the photo the width of its page and compared Obama’s speech to other notable speeches given in Berlin.

Kate Kennedy is front-pages editor at the Newseum.

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