There it was in big bold caps, the main headline on the front page of Monday’s Philadelphia Inquirer: BEYOND BELIEF. Had Obama created a jobs program? Had Martians landed in New Jersey, or among Florida’s frozen oranges?
No, it was an Eagles story. Under the headline was a color photo of running back DeSean Jackson prancing toward the winning touchdown in the final seconds of Sunday’s game against the New York Giants, at New Meadowlands Stadium. (Don’t ask me why an NYC team makes its home in NJ.) The football game was big news because the Eagles, led by quarterback Michael Vick, the former dog-slaying outcast, had scored 28 points in the last eight minutes of the game.
In America, victory = redemption. That’s in case you were wondering why animal lovers are no longer dogging Vick.
What struck me as I held the Inquirer was the lack of actual news on the front page. There was a piece about the controversy over teachers’ salaries in the Philly area, non-news about the Kensington strangler, a wire story about arms control legislation, a non-story about the fifth anniversary of the court ruling against the teaching of “intelligent design” theories in a Dover, PA, high school. But half of the page was about football. This in a town with a tabloid, the Daily News, that already does a great job over-reporting sports news.
Maybe I was overreacting. The Inquirer and DN were sold again this year. The print version of the Inky is on life support, operating with a skeleton crew. The new owners are treading water while they try to figure out how to make money with an online newspaper (good luck with that). They’re desperate for eye-catching stories.
It was a great game, but it’s not as if the Eagles had won the Super Bowl, or even the NFC championship. What about WikiLeaks, the most important free-speech story of our time? What about the danger of war in Korea, the pending FCC ruling on net neutrality, the repercussions of the country’s unrelentingly high jobless rates, and dozens of other stories, many of them local, that affect readers in a real way?
Instead, the Inquirer editors, grown men and women, chose the “miracle” in East Rutherford as their main story. Beyond belief.