Fallout From Parade's Resurrection of Benazir Bhutto

In a January 7 More Messages blog, Denver Post managing editor Gary Clark said that, to his knowledge, his paper had only received one reader complaint owing to the decision of higher-ups to distribute the January 6 Parade magazine, whose cover story presented former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto as alive and kicking even though she had been assassinated on December 27. Judging by followup pieces from other papers across the country, a number of which heard from far more angry subscribers, the Post got off easy.

In the January 8 Chicago Tribune, for example, public editor Timothy J. McNulty noted that "dozens of readers wrote scorching e-mails" about including the aforementioned Parade edition in its Sunday paper, with some suggesting that "the newspaper had abdicated its judgment and journalistic principles." A like number of those who eyeballed the Los Angeles Times felt likewise according to blog report by one of the broadsheet's reader representatives. Typical was a comment from reader Dan Harrison: "It is a journalistic black eye. The only reason we can assume that the L.A. Times would assemble papers that included such a thoughtless article: money." And the Tacoma, Washington News Tribune's David Zeeck acknowledged that his paper had erred in the way it had tried to forewarn readers, publishing a heads-up in the December 30 issue but failing to do so again on January 6 -- although the date is misprinted as December 6.

Clearly, it would have been easier for all concerned if Bhutto had chosen to die another day. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts