It was a tough and fascinating news week on many levels. The tragedy that jolted Virginia Tech, and all of us, on Monday morning brought home the challenges journalists face in this era when news is available around the clock from outlets all over the Internet. It was important to weigh how to reflect what had happened in our newspaper in a compelling way, without hammering our print readers with news they were sure to have seen already on TV and the Web. And we had to act fast to provide updates on this story at Kansas.com whenever new information surfaced.
One thing I always find interesting when a big national story hits is to compare how newspapers around the country handle coverage. The Newseum’s website is a great resource, where each day you can check out more than 500 front pages from newspapers around the world. On Tuesday morning, I noted that most U.S. newspapers presented bold, short headlines: "Rampage," "Bloodbath," "Massacre," "Campus carnage" were repeated in cities everywhere, accompanied by photos of mourners and police and victims on campus.
I know that headline writers across the country faced the same challenge we did at The Eagle– crafting a headline on an important story that we knew would be familiar to our readers well before anyone’s newspaper landed in the driveway.
The word "Why?" struck a chord with me as we were brainstorming possible headline options Monday in our newsroom, because that question just kept ringing in my brain the more I tried to understand this awful, incomprehensible event. On Tuesday when we studied our page with that bold headline at our morning newsmeeting, some of my colleagues sdiad they didn’t feel it was particularly effective. We heard from some readers who praised that choice. I noticed two other papers at the Newseum site used the same headline. I’m interested in what any of our other readers think.
The media was criticized for many aspects of how it handled coverage of this story. In our newsroom, we debated about which photos of Cho Seung-Hui to publish, and of course, NBC News was slammed by many for releasing those photos at all. However, I must say that when I saw those photos on the NBC News website, I immediately said to the editor next to me, "Oh my God, look at this."
And by publishing two of those photos in The Eagle I felt we were saying the same thing to readers.