On the heels of our rebuke of the Grand Rapids Press's "huggable" news policy for its front page, Editor Mike Lloyd defended his newspaper's slide into irrelevance. In the Sunday edition of the Press's editorial page, Lloyd answered in a lengthy column a disgruntled reader who complained about the front-page prominence the Press recently gave to the story that a local TV news anchor, Tom Van Howe, will be retiring some months from now.
Lloyd defended the decision by saying that at the deadline for going to press there was no other news story more important than the Van Howe announcement. Oh please. Is Lloyd then also going to argue that on Thursday there was no other news story more important than the one that ran on the front page alerting readers to the need to keep their receipts if they want to return purchases to the store?
Interestingly, Lloyd revealed in his column the fight among the Press's editors to run the Van Howe announcement on the front page. Entertainment Editor John Gonzalez pushed hard to put the story there. Metro Editor John Barnes dissented, "I thought it was way too much." Assistant Metro Editor Ruth Butler reinforced that position, "It was vastly overplayed." However, folks, before you think that there may be some real newsmen over at the Press who understand that gossipy entertainment tidbits are not hard news, both Barnes and Butler justified their disagreement on the basis that Van Howe is no Suzanne Geha (the long-time TV personality here in town).
So, the real discord at the Press wasn't over an entertainment factoid getting a headline above the fold. It was a matter of how big a mucky-up you have to be in the local TV scene to get that kind of front-page coverage in the Press. Sadly, no one at the Press thinks it's never.