From the Editor

Drescher: March story should have been on front page, some readers say

jdrescher@newsobserver.comFebruary 14, 2014 

Thousands march during a rally attended by people from all over the state and the nation who marched, sang, chanted, cheered and even danced through downtown Raleigh in what organizers described as a "Mass Moral March" to push back against Republican-led legislation in North Carolina.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER

Several readers questioned why our coverage of last Saturday’s protest rally in Raleigh appeared on the Triangle & N.C. front and not on Sunday’s front page. “Huge (record numbers?) numbers of people on the street on a cold day … and this is not front page news?” one reader wrote. “The UNC student has a compelling story for sure, but the march was breaking news, not human interest stuff.”

The “Mass Moral March,” among other things, protested several laws that the legislature passed last year.

We typically have space for three stories on Sunday’s front page. The reader referred to our story about Emilio Vicente, 22, a candidate for student body president at UNC-Chapel Hill with an unusual background. Vicente’s family is from Guatemala. When he was 6, he traveled with his mother and others through Mexico. The group crossed into Arizona illegally. Vicente grew up in Siler City, where he graduated from high school.

We published this story on the middle of the page with a large photograph of Vicente. The story was pegged to Tuesday’s campus election (Vicente led several candidates; a runoff will be held next week).

Atop the front page, we featured a report about North Carolina teachers leaving public schools. It was tied to this week’s announcement by Gov. Pat McCrory of a proposed raise for early career teachers.

In the least prominent position on the page, we wrote about the Catawba Indian Nation’s attempt to open a casino west of Charlotte. The proposal raises sensitive policy questions for the state; Gov. McCrory opposes it.

Reasonable people can disagree about story placement. The news staff disagrees daily. We gave the march story prominent display on the Triangle & N.C. front, with a large photograph and a secondary photograph; the package took up about half of the section front.

The crowd’s size made the march story worth considering for the front page. Raleigh police did not provide an estimate ( see a related story today by Thomasi McDonald) but said the permit called for 20,000 to 30,000 people. It appeared to be one of the largest marches in Raleigh’s recent history.

But this was an annual event with similar messages. The Historic Thousands on Jones Street march was started in 2007. Last week’s march repeated themes from previous years and from recent Moral Monday marches, which also were led by the state NAACP. We didn’t think there were enough new developments to displace any of the front-page stories.

Dilbert and India

We received questions about why we published alternative Dilbert comic strips on Feb. 7 and 8. We chose not to publish two Scott Adams’ strips satirizing a court decision in India that makes homosexual acts illegal.

Cartoons by their nature simplify and generalize. Adams was entitled to comment on the court decision. But in one panel he said the people of India have the “scientific knowledge of inebriated astrologers.” Adams’ argument was with a court in India but his language stereotyped the entire nation.

Science coverage moves

Starting Monday, our weekly Science & Technology coverage will move from inside Triangle & N.C. (section B) to the first two pages of section D. The Science & Technology coverage has been popular with readers since we launched it in 2010. Moving it to the front of a section gives it a more prominent position in the paper. Connect, your guide to the latest gadgets and digital innovations, moves inside the section and makes for a good marriage of content.

Drescher: 919-829-4515 or jdrescher@newsobserver.com.

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