Whitney Houston on the front page

It was a little after 10 last night that we got home and I checked my phone. I had a New York Times email alert saying that Whitney Houston had died. I clicked on the TV, heard the talking heads talking about what a shock it was, that the details of her death weren’t known and that she was the voice of a generation.

Little there to learn; only songs to remember.

I figured I’d catch up in the morning. And because I was a newspaper editor for 27 years, I thought, “Is this a front page story?” Yes, I decided, given who she was and that it became public on the East Coast in the evening; it would still be news to many people in the morning when the paper hit the streets.

To my surprise — and honestly, delight — most of the North Carolina papers I looked at published Houston’s photo and a blurb on the front page, but sent readers inside for the story. Charlotte and Raleigh were the only two major papers with front-page stories.

Whitney, as good as she was, is no Michael Jackson in death.

Front-page news judgment seems to have a circulation size dividing line. On this story, larger papers on the East Coast, playing to a large, diverse audience, published her death on their front pages, generally in a big way. Smaller papers, being more local in their focus, force national stories to fight harder to make their way onto front page display. Papers the size of Greensboro and Winston-Salem, hovering around 90,000-100,000 circulation, seem to straddle that line.

I wouldn’t have been disappointed to see Whitney Houston’s news obit on the front page in my hometown paper. But I was delighted to read four local stories that told me things I didn’t know and that I wouldn’t see on television.


2 thoughts on “Whitney Houston on the front page

  1. Hubby, as I guess you figured, isn’t an online person. He discovered her death in today’s N&R and told me about it (of course, I get up hours earlier and saw it online in almost every place I ordinarily visit in the pre-light hours). A real tragedy.

  2. The Inquirer had it on the front page in Philly. (I only know this because I was at Mom and Dad’s this past weekend and they bought a paper. I don’t buy it and don’t read the online site because there are too many murders and crimes in the city these days for me to digest. I only read the Phillies news online.) Way overplayed, in my opinion. It was above the fold with a color photo and most of the story before the jump. I like the strategy of kicking it inside.

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