Friday, November 07, 2008

Veni, Emanuel

When do you dial down the cele- bration and start covering news about the upcoming executive transition? Um -- could we suggest about a day earlier than certain local papers are going to get to it? The "Obama" hammerhed and accompanying portrait is fine if you're just getting around to your special commemorative issue (as, ahem, some other local papers are), but it's not the way to introduce news. The folks downtown would have done better to leave the press running an extra hour Wednesday morning -- thus averting, at least, the spectacle of J-profs wandering the halls and bemoaning the lack of newspapers on Wednesday afternoon.

Charlotte gets a bit closer with the example at right -- it's leading, at least, with a transition story and a news hed. The story's not much to write home about, but it's sandbagged by the hed, which makes a tedious inside-baseball decision like the CoS pick into the moral or tactical equivalent of the NBA draft: ZOMG! It's ... Emanuel!!! By picking an item that's essentially over in a sentence, the newspaper misses a chance to do what it can still do well (explain, contextualize, look forward) in favor of proving once again that it's going to lose every footrace it gets into with all-news TV.

It wouldn't be all that hard to keep the transition -- meaning, not coincidentally, the symbolic value that the Freep was trying for and missing -- at the top of the page, either. Here's a piece the McClatchy Washburo made available Thursday that -- oh, you think this could have held the lead-with-the-transition spot pretty well?

Bush officials moving fast to cut environmental protections
WASHINGTON — In the next few weeks, the Bush administration is expected to relax environmental-protection rules on power plants near national parks, uranium mining near the Grand Canyon and more mountaintop-removal coal mining in Appalachia.

The administration is widely expected to try to get some of the rules into final form by the week before Thanksgiving because, in some cases, there's a 60-day delay before new regulations take effect. And once the rules are in place, undoing them generally would be a more time-consuming job for the next Congress and administration.

That wasn't so bad, was it? And here's one that -- best I can tell -- didn't move until today but seems to have some look-ahead firepower:

Can Barack Obama undo Bush's tangled legal legacy?
WASHINGTON — When Barack Obama becomes president in January, he'll confront the controversial legal legacy of the Bush administration.

From expansive executive privilege to hard-line tactics in the war on terrorism, Obama must decide what he'll undo and what he'll embrace.

The stakes couldn't be higher.

McClatchy hyperbole aside -- not a bad little tale, eh?

There's a reasonably wide consensus that the U.S. presidency is both miscovered and overcovered -- often at the expense of substantive issues on the legislative side, and often at the cost of making all crises seem irrelevant until the president has said something appropriately somber. The press has a hefty share of guilt on that score (so, in fairness, does the look-at-ME! presidency of Bill Clinton, though the problem didn't start with him). That's not to say that power transitions aren't important, or that this one isn't unique. But -- look, if you had people lined up around the block on Wednesday waiting to buy copies of your paper, do you figure you ought to publish a few front pages over the next few days that remind them why they ought to come back?


Anonymous Amy F. said...

Hey, just wanted to point out that our hed changed for final edition. It was 'Obama taps chief, focuses on economy.'

Not sure why the first edition always gets sent to the newseum, but it seems to the case with lots of papers. Is there an early newseum deadline? (Just pure speculation on my part.)

10:23 PM, November 08, 2008  
Blogger fev said...

Much improved for the final.

I don't know how the Newseum's deadline works -- do you guys have somebody in charge of sending a pdf, and when does that happen? I'm thinking they can't close too early, because the California papers seem to be up as soon as any of the others, but ... worth a look.

9:51 PM, November 09, 2008  

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