McGuire: Papers Should Focus On Ordinary People

By: Dave Astor

In a post-Sept. 11 world, newspaper feature sections should focus more on ordinary people.

That was among several suggestions made by American Society of Newspaper Editors President Tim J. McGuire when he spoke at the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors (AASFE) convention here on Oct. 4.

“We can find heroes in places other than athletic fields and movie screens,” said the Minneapolis Star Tribune editor. “Please reflect on the remarkable stories that flowed from the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks: the story of the man who died because he stopped to stay with a pregnant woman; the heroic stories of the men on the Pennsylvania flight who saved us from more destruction. Nothing is more compelling than the tales of ordinary folks doing extraordinary things.”

There was also a session on feature coverage of the World Trade Center disaster. Some examples: a photo spread of makeshift memorials (Newsday, Melville, N.Y.); a story about the differences between Sikhs and Muslims (Houston Chronicle); a piece on how some people donating blood for the first time learned they had hepatitis or HIV (The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.); and a special expanded teen section (Florida Today, Melbourne).

Editors from several papers nationwide said their New York-based arts-and-entertainment writers became news reporters for the day on Sept. 11.

AASFE President Steve Doyle of the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel said the convention drew 128 people — only 12 less than the number of pre-Sept. 11 sign-ups, but down by roughly half from last year due to the economy.

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