Friday, September 12, 2003


Johnny Cash and John Ritter die on the same day. You're a newspaper editor. Which story gets more prominent placement?

Easy question, right? Ritter was a likeable sitcom actor with a flair for slapstick—a poor man's Dick Van Dyke. Johnny Cash was a towering figure in American popular music, a man who helped pioneer rockabilly and who made enduring contributions to country music, a man who was equally admired by prisoners and Presidents, a man who made records in six different decades, a man who through the sheer force of his artistic personality could compel me to love a song I had always detested ("Personal Jesus" by Depeche Mode)—in short, a man who could dress solely in black and pull it off.

The answer, in other words, is obvious. Obvious at least to those philistines at the New York Times, and the Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times. When I checked these papers' websites, all gave pride of place to Mr. Cash.

If you worked for a certain Twin Cities paper, however, you would see things a little differently. On your website, you would give John Ritter not just front-page billing complete with a publicity still and a sidebar link to a video retrospective of his career, but also a second sidebar link to an interview with Ritter conducted two months ago by C.J., your often incomprehensible and always fatuous gossip columnist.

Then you would remember about that old country music geezer who wrote that song about some boy named Sue who lit his ring on fire one piece at a time—or something like that; never did care for him that much, and geez, wasn't he dead already?—and drop a third sidebar link under the John Ritter story for Johnny Cash.

Star Tribune, this one's for you.

UPDATE: The Strib has now (11:30 PM) moved the Johnny Cash link to a sidebar position under a story about a lawsuit concerning the famous Minneapolis nightclub First Avenue. Huh? That deserves another one.


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