No wonder readers are giving up on daily newspapers

Many people probably first heard about the terrible accident in Centerville that claimed the life of an elderly woman and injured three people, including Barnstable Town Council President Gary Brown, in comments posted here Tuesday,  the day of the crash.
Details were sketchy and it was the first thing I looked for yesterday morning at the website of the Cape Cod Times.

For a story that could not be more local, about an accident that ended one person's life and dramatically altered the lives of three others, including a prominent local figure, an article about the crash was an obvious choice for the front page of Wednesday's Times.
But the editors at the Times thought otherwise, because they put the story on top of page 3 instead, with the bold headline, "Brown involved in crash." ("involved"? Why not "injured"?).

So what went on page 1 instead?
The centerpiece was about former Falmouth police officer John Busby appearing before state legislators to ask that they extend the statute of limitations for assaults against police, and apparent links between the shooting that nearly killed Busby in 1979 and the murder last May of Shirley Reine.
That looks like it should go out front, as should the story about two Mass. Maritime cadets facing disciplinary action for a late-night Halloween swim that led to a search effort. 
A wire story about President Bush proposing a $7 billion  strategy to prepare for a possible global super-flu pandemic - sure, makes sense for that to get prominent play, given the severity and scale of a potential outbreak.

Which leads to the last two stories on page 1 - one of them, another wire story, ran above the fold under the headline, "Panel urges simpler tax code" (your eyes are glazing just reading that, aren't they?).
"A special presidential tax-advisory committee yesterday recommended a bold plan to simplify and restructure the tax code, proposing to change the tax treatment of everything from home ownership to health care," the story began.
Operative word - "recommended."

As for the last story, on the bottom of the page, it's a judgment call. "Helicopter pilot walks away from bog crash," reads the headline for a story about a helicopter that crashed Tuesday in Cataumet.
But while the pilot was not injured, fortunately, he is also not from the Cape - he lives in Middleboro. The story also points out how the pilot "came within a few feet of landing his crippled chopper" before he losing control and coming down hard into a cranberry bog.
On any given day at the Times, this same incident would be reported in a three-paragraph item in the police log.

What elevated it to front-page status, however, was a great photo taken at the scene by Steve Heaslip.
The story on page 3 about the Centerville crash also had a photo, this one by Ron Schloerb, of both vehicles. But car accidents are so common that photos of them no longer convey much of a shock, unless you can't tell that these mangled heaps of metal and glass were once vehicles. That wasn't the case here.
Helicopters, on the other hand, crash far less frequently and a photo of a local crash is not something often seen. So even though the pilot wasn't hurt and he's from off-Cape, I can see this story going on page 1 as well.

By process of elimination, this leaves the wire story about the tax code as the best choice to be bumped inside and the Centerville crash story placed out front instead.
Why didn't the editors at the Times do this?
My impression of the Times, based on years of reading it before I worked there from 2000 to 2004, and from continuing to read it since, it that local coverage is not its forte. Instead, it is trying to carve out a niche as a regional-national paper, the Cape's version of The Boston Globe, and the people managing it are wasting their time, at least in my opinion.
If the editors at Times want to keep the readers they have - and all most dailies hope for these days is to stop the bleeding - they better reacquaint themselves with what local readers want.
And any editor who thinks  readers prefer a wire story about the federal tax code instead of  a local story about a fatal accident involving the president of the governing council of the largest town on Cape Cod is in the wrong line of work. 

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