Peter Funt Peter Funt, 8/7/2019 [Archive]

I'll Bet on News Over Views

I'll Bet on News Over Views

By Peter Funt

Back when I was a rookie editor in ABC's Manhattan newsroom we used to place bets - actual cash wagers - on how the New York Times would design the next day's front page.

Rather than wait until morning for results we gathered around a radio to savor the 9 p.m. broadcast on WQXR, which began: "Front Page! Tomorrow's New York Times! What will it look like?" A fellow named Bill Blair dutifully described every inch of page one, reading each headline and explaining how it was positioned.

Though the radio program is long gone, some news executives still play the game using digital images. But here's a news flash: Among them are the Times's top editors. Many of the people who used to spend hours planning the page now check an email or tweet at 9 p.m. to see what it looks like. For them, the print edition has taken a backseat to the company's various digital products.

This resulted in quite a fuss the other day when the Times's print headline as of 9 p.m. read, "TRUMP URGES UNITY VS. RACISM." A tweet of the page brought an angry response from those who felt the wording, while accurate, failed to contextualize the president's remarks in the wake of shootings in Texas and Ohio. The headline was changed in subsequent editions to, "ASSAILING HATE BUT NOT GUNS."

My take on all this is twofold. First, the Times's front page, much like its tabloid cousins in New York, The Daily News and The Post, has impact as an information snapshot that extends beyond actual print circulation. Second, and far more important, journalists are on dangerous ground when they shift too heavily from reporting the news to analyzing and interpreting it outside of carefully labeled "opinion" columns.

The Wall Street Journal's page-one headline that day, for example, was bland but straightforward: "Trump Speaks Out as Death Toll In Two Shootings Climbs..."

Few stories frustrate journalists - and those who second-guess them - as much as mass murders across this nation. They are covered in print and on television in a predictable pattern: anxious eyewitnesses and grieving relatives speaking to shirtsleeved reporters, along with streams of politicians who appear genuinely concerned but also aware of a prime-time opportunity to be seen and heard.

Nothing changes, prompting some to blame the messenger. If only, they argue, journalists went beyond the facts and called for action to restrict guns and curb hate crimes. A sad take along those lines comes from a former editor at Denver's defunct Rocky Mountain News, who guided award-winning coverage of the 1999 school massacre at Columbine.

Under the headline, "I've seen the limits of journalism," John Temple writes in The Atlantic that the ritual of how mass murders are covered hasn't changed much in two decades. "I am forced to ask why journalists are doing this work in this way," he concludes, "and whether in the end it's worth it."

Keeping the public informed is, indeed, worth it. People in Colorado aren't disadvantaged because coverage follows predictable patterns so much as they are that The Rocky's closure made Denver a one-paper town.

The more politically divided the nation becomes, the greater the thirst for news coverage that reinforces thinking rather than inspires it. At the same time, the shift from print to digital platforms makes opining easier, opening the door for the oxymoronic endeavor known as advocacy journalism.

If the Times erred in judgment it was probably by placing the President's remarks too high on the page. There was nothing wrong with what the original headline said, only with the thinking of critics whose 9 o'clock bet would have been for something that more matched their opinion.


A list of Peter Funt's upcoming live appearances is available at

Peter Funt is a writer and speaker. His book, "Cautiously Optimistic," is available at and © 2019 Peter Funt. Columns distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate.

Download Peter Funt's color photo - Download Peter Funt's black and white mug shot photo
Why not run a cartoon with the column? We recommend the cartoons below as a good compliment to Peter Funt's topic.
Click on the thumbnail images to preview and download the cartoons.

Related Cartoons

No More Cartoonists at The New York Times
By: Jeff Koterba

June 20, 2019

New York Times Yellow Streak
By: Jeff Parker
Florida Today
June 19, 2019

New York Times Yellow Streak
By: Jeff Parker
Florida Today
June 19, 2019

No cartoons in NYT
By: Christo Komarnitski

June 23, 2019

We do not accept and will not review unsolicited submissions from cartoonists.
Sales & Information: (805) 969-2829
Billing Information: (805)
Technical Support:

FREE cartoons for your website if you're already a paying print subscriber!
Artwork and columns are copyrighted by each creator. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. Privacy Policy | Terms of Service