I mean, I took Journalism 101 back at Towson State, she thought. Sports go in the back. Everybody knows that! What's with this huge picture of the Ravens game, and a stupid sports opinion column? I bet eighty percent of their readers could care less about football, or at least they wouldn't think it should be on the front page, unless maybe the stadium collapsed or something.
She decided to analyze the whole front section. She choked on her coffee when she read the main news story's headline: "Police probe Harris' killing." Like they wouldn't investigate a murder! she thought. That's like reporting 'Dog bites man"! Below that story was something about the pros and cons of having slot machines in Western Maryland. Boy, is that ever a retread! she marveled. Where in blazes is there anything about the financial crisis? For crying out loud, that's what people are really interested in! She glanced at the "Summary of the News" box underneath the large full-color vignetted photo of the sports columnist. Who cares what he looks like? fumed Louella, as she flipped back toward page 8 for the story called "Paulson Pushes Bailout."
She glanced at the pages in between. Another columnist on page two. Waste of prime news real estate. Two big page-three stories about closing some lanes of the expressway for a few hours to allow for biking and walking, and about the city public schools' chief wanting judicial credit for progress made in special education. Local stories! realized Louella. They used to have a local section for stuff like this. I can't imagine people in Hagerstown will want to read a story about the city schools, even if it does have a headline across the entire page.
Page four was "regional" news, with brief tidbits except for a one-column story about Constellation Energy getting its first billion dollars from Buffett's buyout. Why isn't this on the front page? Louella marveled. Everybody's going to be affected by this. Doesn't the Sun have editors any more? She thought about applying, but realized there'd be no chance of getting such a job. They've already laid off practically everybody but these columnists, she thought. That must be why they feature them like this.
She flicked her eyes over the page five story—another column, this one about suggestions to improve traffic flow on I-70. This Michael Dresser columnist guy, he must be pretty ugly, she thought. No picture! Or maybe there was no room for his picture because of this Crime Blotter thing next to his column. She ignored it. Crime happens, she thought. Why focus on it? But come to think of it, didn't the Sun make a big deal about how many murders Baltimore had so far in the year? Used to treat that like it was some kind of important sports score. She decided to make a point of checking for that homicide box as she went through the paper.
Page six featured four pictures supposedly giving a flavor of what had happened in the past 24 hours. Nice trick to try to cover the whole world in a half a page, Louella snarked to herself. Her eyes strayed to the very compressed "people and entertainment" section below the picture. Hmmm, she mused. Still don't have a clue about the financial meltdown, but at least I know what actors are having birthdays today, and which films are making big box office money! She read the tidbits about celebrity, thinking, I should have my head examined for even looking at this drivel. Page seven gave huge play to the Emmy Awards, with a sidebar story on what celebrities wore to the Emmy Awards ceremony.
Finally Louella flipped to page eight. Imagine! A whole page devoted to "Nation & World"! she thought. Pakistan bombing—guess that's worthy. Below that story there was a picture of the hairless Treasury Secretary with his mouth open. Louella was surprised; the headline above his picture read, "Democrats want help for homeowners." The subhead, she realized, should have been the headline: "Paulson is seeking quick approval of 'clean' $700 billion rescue plan for Wall Street." What's the story here? wondered Louella. Is it about Paulson's plan, or about what Democrats and Republicans have to say about it? This is dumb. She scanned the newsbriefs about child porn, Chinese children getting sick from tainted milk, South African president resigning, new government forms in Israel, blown tire on jet blamed for crash, panel wants SAT, ACT testing abolished. What a mixed bag, thought Louella. Some of these things should be on page one!
Then page nine grabbed her eye. The biggest headline she'd seen so far in the news section proclaimed, "A blast by McCain." What the?? McCain's always blasting something. What's newsworthy about that? Louella read the subhead, looking for context. "Republican says Obama shows a pattern of weak leadership on Iraq and economy." What the hell is this? thought Louella, who favored Obama. Does this writer Paul West get paid by the McCain campaign to be a shill for them or what? She read the article. Good grief! What do you know! It really is a news story after all. And it balances McCain and Obama quotes and viewpoints. Why in the world would an editor completely mislabel a decent story like this? Maybe the headline writer working on the weekend had an axe to grind. Bet this guy West is pissed off!
The adjacent story, "Palin pick aided Obama," reported that the Obama campaign raised lots of money after Palin was chosen as McCain's running mate. Duh! thought Louella.
Onward Louella went. Page ten, obituaries. Page 11, jumps on the two front page news stories about slots-in-Western-Maryland and robbers-sought-in-killing. Page 12 and 13, letters, editorials, two op-ed stories, and syndicated cartoons. Geez! thought Louella. I can remember when The Sun had its own cartoonists! Now they can't even supply enough reporters, photographers and editors.
She turned to the back page. Oh my God! More about what Ravens fans wear, from that idiot front page column. The banner headline read, "Midlife crisis? Try the goofy attire." Louella felt like gagging. Like they couldn't give this much space to the new government in Israel? I mean, come on! Who are they publishing this rag for? Not me—even a grocery store clerk like me can't find any news in this thing!
Louella sipped the last of her coffee and carried the Sun to her recycling box and dropped it in without bothering to look at the Sports and You sections. They ought to pay me for the trouble of recycling this! she thought, eyes flinty. What a waste of trees!
TO BE CONTINUED.
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This story was published on September 23, 2008.