Sunday, February 1, 2009

Iraqi elections

Years ago, in another lifetime, I worked as an editor at our local newspaper, The Florida Times-Union. Part of my responsibility was to recommend the front, or pick the stories best suited for A-1.

At the time, local newspapers were beginning their circulation contractions - newspaper sales were not growing as fast as the communities in which they were located. So as editors were likely to do, they began naval scratching exercises, read research, created task forces.

The early consensus was readers were losing interest in national and international news. If it wasn't local news, local readers wouldn't read it. That began the erosion of reporting on national and international news that continues in local papers, albeit for more controversial reasons.

Ironically, the term of art for local news only was "Afghanistanism." Local readers could give a whit about what happens in Afghanistan.


Yesterday, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis quietly went to the polls to cast votes for 440 seats in the Parliament. Although there will be problems uncovered, it was still an historic election.

With so many sons, daughters, spouses, friends, relatives overseas, Iraq and Afghanistan are significant local stories. Jacksonville is a Navy town. The Florida Times-Union is headquartered in St. Augustine.

So let's see what the front page of my local paper looks like:

Lede story: Nursing home rating system doesn't tell the whole story (good enterprise story)

Second lede: A "Bullet" shoots into history (Bob Hayes, a former Dallas Cowboy superstar and once known as the world's fastest man, makes the NFL Hall of Fame. He grew up in Jacksonville and died here a few years back)

Below the fold: Humbled heart leads servant to give to children (a well-deserved story about Pam Paul, who has tirelessly worked for Jacksonville's children for decades)

Banner refers: Upset in the Cards?, Sports C-1
Halftime predictions, Life E-1
Grow your water wings, Business D-1
Who was that guy? Mark Woods B-1
A hidden tax no more, Insight A-15

The Iraqi elections? A-13, no front page presence.

How did your local paper do?


ABNPOPPA said...

I am afraid to look!


MightyMom said...

OK, now I hate the Dallas Morning News and religiously refuse to look at it, but I will go and have a peek, just cuz you asked nicely..............

I don't know all your reporter lingo...but, front page, above the fold. at the top it's divided down the middle left says "Getting ready for the biggest Big Game" about Super Bowl, right says "Finally comes to pass: Hayes a Hall of Famer"

The BIG PICTURE in the center below these two articles is titled "Embracing change" with black history month above the title, this pic is pretty well centered on the fold so I'd have to flip the paper to tell you more about it. Then over on the right side of pic, a bit smaller is "Campaign cash buys the good life--lawmakers say spending on luxury cars, hotels, condos justified by sacrifices of office" (gag!) then on the left sidebar is the list of other things to find elsewhere in the paper (you with me so far?) this starts above the fold, I still haven't flipped to bottom half.

ok, left sidebar thing...
weather -- partly sunny H65 L 43 (Hi Pops and Infantry Dad!!) Metro, back page

Octuplets mom called obsessed (I didn't leave out the apostrophe, they did) 4A
Also: GOP Sen. Judd Gregg may be tapped for Commerce secretary 10A

Iraqi vote peaceful
Elections in Iraq went off without major violence but still had flaws. 19A

And that's where the fold is...just barely above the fold on the front page, but at the top of the "World" part...I dunno, you tell me, is this good coverage??

MightyMom said...

ok, so I flipped the paper and just had to add.

below the "Campaign cash buys the good life" article is this (we're bottom right corner of page here..bout 4" on the page)

Sowing the battlefields for a turnaround

Texas troops combat Afghan insurgents with farming plan
by Jim Landers Washington Bureau.

this is an odd article...odd by my standards, but good overall. it gets all of 12A and talks about

"A Texas National Guard Agribuisness Development Team plans to defeat the Taliban's hold on the big wheat-seed farm at Khajanoor by building a larger, quality seed farm in the high mountain plains of Ghazni province."

and that's about as much of what hubby calls "the local fish wrap" as I can stomach tonight...

let me know how it measures up in your estimation!

Anonymous said...

I should start by saying that I have never been impressed by my local newspaper's choice of story topics.
So my paper may not be the best example, but with that said, from the Midwest-

Front Page/Center: -"1969 Local High School Graduate played six seasons as a Cardinal linebacker".

-"School budget adjustments to be made".

Left Sidebar: -"A special health section".

S-omething about local Gymnastics

-"Lawmakers meet w/ public on Saturday".

-"Dad's Belgian Waggles served; Lions Club is sponsor"

Right Sidebar: -"Council OKs water rate change".

My local paper doesn't do a "world news" section. And I've never really understood why. Inside, the only international story was a paragraph snippet about a female from Kentucky being promoted to Captain of her Squadron in the U.S. Air Force. And that was only because it was submitted by her Grandparents.

So there you have it folks. Apparently the most note-worthy news items to make the front page on my local paper are: Gymnastics, Football, and... Belgian Waffles?
I guess I would give that a pretty poor grade.

Airborne dad said...


Better coverage than none. At least the story got a Page 1 "refer."


That's pretty standard coverage these days. Sad but true. Sometimes world events can have the most profound local consequences as we saw in 9/11.

ABNPOPPA said...

Well, as most of you know I am the first to jump on something when I feel it's wrong so here goes.

Refer to this post and my comment "I am afraid to look!" I did. When I went to the world's largest retailer this morning I scrounged around and found the Sunday edition of the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. In one inch headlines (?) just below the fold on the front page was:

"Complaints crop up, but not violence" A positive story on the Iraq Elections. So here is my apology to the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. You printed good war news on the front page of your paper. I thank you very much. Please accept my apology for calling you a left wing rag for the past 5 years.

Pops, Yuk!


Bob Hayes was one hell of a football player and truly the "fastest man in the world"

Infantry Dad said...

Keene Sentinel,
Front page bottom center a picture of a little girl, maybe 11 or 12 years old holding up a finger stained with ink, after her parents had voted. (Hi MMs).
Headline reads Violence-free, but thousands denied votes.