Updated at 3:30 p.m.
Please rate the comparative news merits of these two events:
Event One: This is a carefully planned and scheduled political speech. The public has known that it was coming a month before it happened. It includes no new announcements about policy. It is designed to accomplish a very specific purpose, one that is known to all. Though it turns out to be a good speech, it contains nothing surprising.
Event Two: This is a chaotic and entirely unforeseen breakdown in the operations of a major American political party. It results in an embarrassing and perhaps even bylaw-violating showdown on the party’s stance on issues of great importance across the country and the world. It flusters top party officials to such an extent that they either decline to answer questions about it or give strange and conflicting answers about it.
Guess which one scored big on the front pages of daily newspapers across America? Have a look for yourself on the front pages inventoried on the Newseum’s collection of front pages. It’s all about the speech that everyone knew about for more than a month. “ ‘We’re all in this together’ ” is the big headline on the Chicago Tribune’s front. New York Times: “Clinton Delivers Stirring Plea for Second Obama Term.”
The New York Times front also features an analysis piece on President Obama under the banner “Man in the News” and capsules pointing readers to a piece on Rahm Emanuel’s move into fundraising and on gays and lesbians moving “to the forefront” of the convention.
The Washington Post goes with two big stories on the Clinton speech, plus another on the Democrats’ “Fundraising Gap,” not to mention a few blurbs promoting stories on other topics. The Los Angeles Times gives us a box referring readers to stories in a special section.
So what about Event Two?
As political observers know, Event Two is the meltdown over the Democratic platform the past couple of days, after news broke that party officials had deleted mentions to God and Jerusalem as the capital of Israel from the party’s official policy document. For a full day, Democratic leaders did a great deal of hunkering down on the controversy. Then, on Wednesday, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa stood before the delegates and attempted to get voice passage of amendments to reinsert the God and Jerusalem provisions. He tried three times to get the crowd to approve the amendments, but the crowd didn’t deliver. He decreed the revisions passed anyhow.
Drama, conflict, open rebellion, God, Israel, mayhem, delegates looking disgusted in their seats, party leaders offering lame/no explanations, poor management — what more do you need to crack the prime position on a national daily?
Perhaps choreography. We’ve seen before in this convention fortnight how the media enjoy focusing their coverage on the printed agenda. Programming wins again. As does the institution of the speech roundup story, whose all-area pass to the front pages of this country’s newspapers needs to be invalidated.
Hope and change on this front, however, come from the Boston Globe, which found space for the Jerusalem story on A1. When asked why the story merited such prominence, Globe Editor Martin Baron responded, “Clearly the party felt the heat and scrambled to recover. That was an unusual turnabout on an issue that could influence some swing states. That’s why we put it on Page One.”
We’ve reached out to top editors at the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and the New York Times to hear their own reasons for placement calls and haven’t heard back just yet.
UDPATE 3:30 p.m.: The New York Times responds, saying that the “fight over the platform is mentioned in the A1 leadall story; it just occurs after the jump. There’s also a separate story by Mark Landler that appears on the first of our election pages inside....Not sure that we made any judgment that it ‘didn’t make the grade?’” Fair points there: The A1 story does get around to mentioning the fight in a couple of paragraphs deep inside the paper and the New York Times did produce a standalone story. But again, this was a massive screwup that unfolded on national television.
UPDATE 4:50: Los Angeles Times Managing Editor Marc Duvoisin responds that convention coverage appears in a special section, which includes a piece on its front about the platform dispute.