October 9, 2008

Today's Front Pages Analysis

At the intersection of Wall Street and Main Street, the financial crisis

On the presidential campaign trail both major-party tickets have been using the global financial crisis to draw a distinction within America, a distinction between haves and have-nots, between wealthy “Wall Street” and everyday “Main Street.”

On both streets, however, the crisis is front-page news.

The Wall Street Journal takes money matters seriously. Today it notes that the United States, Canada and countries throughout Europe cut interest rates yesterday, trying to slow their market declines. AM New York, also in Manhattan, has a different focus. The paper profiles a number of “Stress Busters,” ways in which “The wealthy indulge in guilty pleasures to deal with the Wall Street crisis.” Photos on this front page suggest Wall Streeters are still spending money on desserts, spa treatments, credit-card shopping sprees and — seriously? — lap dances.

Back on the campaign trail, the vice-presidential nominees like to tout themselves as blue-collar Americans, as a son and a daughter of Main Street. Democrat Joe Biden was born in Scranton, Pa., where today’s Times-Tribune notes yesterday’s Dow Jones drop of 189 points. Biden lives in Wilmington, Del., where the biggest headline on the front page of The News Journal reads, “Market’s painful plummet continues.”

Say it ain’t so, Joe!

Republican Sarah Palin hails from tiny (but Main Street) Wasilla, Alaska, about 45 minutes from Anchorage, where today the Anchorage Daily News refers readers looking for financial news to the B section, the paper’s Nation/World section.

Here’s a different approach: If Main Street is synonymous with Middle America, is Main Street located at the middle of America? The geographic center of our 50 states sits just north of Rapid City, S.D., and today the Rapid City Journal asks, “When will the financial meltdown hit bottom?” In Newark, N.J., The Star-Ledger uses a banner atop its front page to ask the similarly rhetorical “How Low Will It Go?”

Finally, not on Main Street but on a Maine street, the Portland Press Herald highlights its state’s lobster industry, which is suffering. Right about this time of year Maine should be entering its usual high season for lobsters. But this year, because fuel and bait are expensive and lobsters are a luxury food item, demand has fallen off.

That’s bad news. But eating lobsters in Maine? That’s not news. That’s nearly as clichéd as a politician’s talking about Main Street.

Hicks Wogan is a staff assistant at the Newseum.

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