Dart to the Palo Alto Daily News, for blindly toeing the local line. “Everybody,” as was noted on Slate’s August 11 roundup of “Today’s Papers,” “leads with the big, foiled terror plot in which twenty-four British men, mostly of Pakistani descent, were arrested and are suspected of plotting to bomb multiple airliners with liquid explosives.” Everybody, that is, but the Palo Alto Daily News, whose policy keeps its front page bound to strictly local news, hand and foot. There the lead story on August 11 was not the terrorist plot — which did eventually show up on the paper’s page eleven — but rather on some proposed new rules to strengthen the sanitary standards for pedicures.
Editors’ Note: In taking poetic license to describe the paper’s page-one policy as being bound "hand and foot" to local news, we neglected to note that rare exceptions can be made if and when, in the editor’s judgement, circumstances warrant.
Dart to the Vineyard Gazette, for stealing the fruit of a neighbor’s vine. On August 1, The Martha’s Vineyard Times, the rival weekly that also serves the Massachusetts island, prepared under the byline of its news editor, Nelson Sigelman, a richly flavored, full-bodied obituary of a modest local fisherman, a copy of which it sent to the funeral home, as is routine. The obituary itself, however, was far from routine: as the enterprising Sigelman discovered, the popular fisherman had earlier spent some thirty-eight years as a Secret Service agent whose feats included heroically protecting President Gerald Ford during an assassination attempt. On August 2, the Gazette, having been (routinely) sent a copy of the obituary by the funeral home, e-mailed the Times about its intention to use the “lovely obituary” with only minor changes but without a byline. In an e-mailed reply on August 3 — the day the Times published its “lovely” piece — the Times graciously waived the byline but noted, explicitly, the need for proper credit to the Times. On August 4, the Times’s obituary appeared in the Gazette bearing no label whatsoever as to its vintage. Complaints by the Times to the Gazette about the omission yielded a bunch of surprising responses — among them, a statement that the absence of attribution in an outsider’s work was “a matter of policy” and a claim that the running by two newspapers of the same obituary “happens all the time.” All of which, in their disingenuous variety, were decidedly off.
Laurel to Cox Newspapers, for unearthing still more of the buried shame in America’s racial past. We knew about the lynchings and the bombings; what we didn’t know about was the expulsions. Now, in his exhaustive four-part series “Leave or Die,” Washington editor Elliot Jaspin shows in painstaking, painful detail how, for decades after the Civil War and particularly in the South, terrorized blacks were systematically driven from their homes and run out of town, abandoning their (soon-to-be-appropriated) land and property, by whites hell-bent on keeping their communities pure. The result of a mission begun in 1998 when Jaspin happened upon an all-white county in Arkansas, the series draws on newspaper archives, census data, tax records, and interviews with surviving descendants to document, county by county, even lot by lot, this nation’s experiment in ethnic cleansing.