Wednesday, January 19, 2005


Bad News, Page 1; Good News, Page 7A

As I expected, the news that Archbishop Casmoussa was released yesterday only warranted page 7A, whereas his capture was the lead story, page 1.
A legitimate complaint, but not always practical in the fast-paced world of daily journalism. The placement of the bishop kidnap story has more to do with its timing during the news cycle than with the good/bad quality of the news and its reflection on the Iraq situation. The initial news of the kidnapping just happened to break at a time when it was fresh news just before the paper was going to print that evening so it got prominent play on P1. But the situation was resolved quickly the next morning with the bishop being released unharmed early in the day so that it was not fresh news by the next evening and thus ended up getting pushed inside by other stories.
The situation could have easily been reversed had the timing been different. If the kidnapping had occurred after the E-N went to press and was old news by the next evening it probably would not have played on Page 1. Likewise, had the release occurred just before deadline it might have been bumped up to the front page. That is just the way the news cycle works and charges of bias are just not accurate in this case.
But let’s just pretend for a minute that you are the editor and you place a higher priority on balancing the news rather than on freshness and reader interest. Which story would you have bumped off of the front page to make room for the story about the bishop being released? Remember that they want to balance the page with stories that appeal to the widest audience, so you can’t just chuck the football feature story and have nothing but hard news. Personally, I could have done without the gratuitous picture of Bush yukking it up at his pre-inaugural festivities, but then you would still need another lead photo for the front page because you can’t just fill the page with stories and have no art. I like the story about the GOP lawmaker calling Bush’s Social Security privatization scheme a dead horse. HaHaHaHa! And then there is the Rice confirmation hearings that surely must stay out front. So that leaves the story about the lege getting ready to ax state college programs or the ACCD bond story, both of which have more interest to local readers than the bishop story.
So what is your choice, Editor Commando?
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