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Above the Fold

In analog newspapers, the space above the fold on the front page is considered very valuable. That’s where editors place the stories they consider most important, or at least the ones that might catch the eye of someone looking over the choices on newsstands.


On the front page of yesterday’s Washington Post, 1/6th of that above-the-fold space was used to begin a story about how our water and sewage systems are falling apart and will require billions of dollars to fix.

The other 5/6th was taken up with pictures and stories about a group of people competing to lead this country, all of whom want to slash funding for even the most basic upgrades to the public infrastructure.

Same for roads, schools, energy, air traffic control, ports, and pretty much everything other than the military, and walls to keep people who don’t look like them out of the country.

Actually, most of those candidates for president would love to sell just everything off to the highest bidder (or to no-bid contributors if they can get away with it).

However, that above-the-fold space in the Post is also an example of how the news media covers the electoral process.

One-sixth (if that) on important issues, ones that actually affect the quality of life in this country, and five-sixths on the horse race of the election, the gossip, the manufactured controversies, arguing over the stupid, out-of-context, and irrelevant sound bites.

It’s going to be a long election year, and it’s clear the candidates and the reporters who cover them will be spending most of their time on trivial crap instead of educating the electorate.

1 Comment

  1. Dave

    One of my favorite assignments ever was in high school, when the teacher split us into groups to observe the media. Each member of the group watched, listened to, and read different media reports and took notes on the column-inches/time/placement given to different stories. We compared across different media.

    The thing that really caught my attention was that, during this December project, all of the media outlets happen to devote a significant chunk of time to stories about Christmas decorations, but that they varied in their coverage of “real” news. If you picked a random news outlet to consume that day, you would have missed at least one or two major stories of the day, but you would definitely have seen a human interest story about Christmas decorations.

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