Priorities: USA Today Print Edition Puts Thatcher Coverage Below the Fold on Page 1

Coverage of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's death and life was relegated to below the fold at USA Today this morning (pictured here; the paper stopped posting front-page pics two years ago).

Three items above the fold (excluding left-side teases to coverage of other stories) were considered more important that the Iron Lady's passing: "Remembering Annette Funicello"; a "Duplicate programs waste billions" item about wasteful government spending (useful, but it's not as if we didn't know this already); and to top it off, a 6x6 photo from the first half of the NCAA men's basketball finals, the result of which the paper was unable to report because the game ended after its publication deadline.


Thatcher got half of the available real estate below the fold. USAT chose to use half of her space for a picture of a weakened Iron Lady which was clearly from long after she left the public stage. A quarter of the below-the-fold space went to the government waste story, and the remainder was given to what amounted to a free commercial for the final episode of National Geogrphaic Channel's three-part series on the 1980s.

The Thatcher coverage itself, which carried back to 60% of Pages A6 and A7 (the rest went to ads), was largely fair, with one exception: Rick Hampson's primary story (as carried at the Asbury Park Press; I could not find it at USAT's web site in a search on the story's first sentence) detoured into who-cares territory in addressing Ms. Thatcher's lack of solidarity with the true-believer wing of the "feminist" movement, which has always claimed to represent the majority of women and never, ever has:

... (Thatcher) was more complicated and paradoxical than the political caricature would suggest:

- In a time when feminism was waxing, here was a self-made woman and working mother who was neither a feminist nor a liberal. She happily answered to “Mrs. Thatcher.” "Americans were taken aback,” says Grossman of the American Historical Association. (Uh, no we weren't. -- Ed.)

American feminists didn’t know what to think. “Some women were happy to see a woman in power,” says Jacqueline Jones, a professor of American history at the University of Texas at Austin. “Others were appalled by her policies.”

Thatcher’s ascent did not threaten opponents of feminism because she never seemed like a feminist -- or even, at times, particularly feminine. (From a press which obsesses over gender stereotypes, we get a gender stereotype. -- Ed.)

“She was an absolute trailblazer,” said Gillian Shephard, who served as a junior minister under Thatcher and is the author of The Real Iron Lady: Working with Mrs. Thatcher. “Before her time as prime minster it was perhaps unthinkable that a woman should reach that position in Britain. Since she was prime minister it has of course become possible for all women.” (In doing so, she accomplished more for the advancement of women than the entire horde of true-believer feminists ever have. -- Ed.)

... - In a time when Britain was widely regarded by its former colony as hidebound, backward and sexist, the mother country was first of the two to elect a woman head of government. “They got there first,” observes Grossman. “And we’re still not there.

Reagan was a man’s man of a politician -- up there on his horse, in cowboy boots and hat -- who had few powerful women in his own administration. Yet he found himself partners with a woman who became his primary international ally.

Well, at least Hampson didn't relay the classless comment from the mid-1980s made by Neil Kinnock and others in the Labor Party claiming that Thatcher had a "schoolgirl crush" for Reagan -- as the Associated Press's obituary did, without attributing the characterization to perhaps her most bitter, unhinged opponents.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.