Friday, September 25, 2009

Charlottesville Daily Suck-Up?

For the past few days, the Charlottesville Daily Progress (a Media General newspaper) has been running profiles of local candidates for public office, beginning with those running for City Council. The series is going to continue through next week, including a Q&A with the candidates next Sunday, followed by articles about the contenders for sheriff, commissioner of the revenue, commonwealth's attorney, treasurer, and School Board. (Of those offices, only the sheriff's race is contested.)

The first two profiles, for independent City Council candidates Bob Fenwick and Paul Long, were positioned on the right side of the front page, with their headlines just above the fold. This is appropriate placement for a feature story with certain current news value. (See the two pictures, below.)

The third profile, however, which featured incumbent Dave Norris, who is also Charlottesville's mayor (a title bestowed by other City Council members and not subject to voter approval), was positioned as the day's most important news story, well above the fold and emblazoned across the most prominent section of page A1. (See below; click to embiggen.)

Excuse me for pointing this out, but a soft-edge candidate profile is never the most important news story of the day, especially when it is published five weeks before the election. Indeed, as local stories go, the report on the Albemarle County Superintendent of Schools' decision to save three elementary schools was far more newsworthy and deserving of greater prominence than the Dave Norris puff piece was.

Either the editors of the Daily Progress have no news judgment or sense of balance at all (which may be the case, since they ran an AP report of a local news story above the fold on Thursday, rather than producing an article with a Daily Progress or Media General byline; they can't send a reporter to Orange County?) or they are trying to curry favor with the powers-that-be in City Hall -- and doing it in a ham-handed, blazingly obvious way.

Does anyone know if the Daily Progress or Media General might have a regulatory or zoning matter coming up before City Council anytime soon? At least that would provide a clear rationale for putting a photo of an incumbent-mayor-seeking-reelection in the position on the front page the most readily draws the readers' attention.

Please note that my beef is not with any of the candidates, none of whom I am endorsing; it is with the newspaper, for its transparent apple-polishing.

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1 comment:

Mike said...

The boldest headline is the lead, even if it's not on top of the page. Likely the same layout person, since they worked Tuesday-Saturday when I was a stringer in the 1990s.