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D-day coverage criticized

June 11, 2009 |  5:11 pm

Obama on D-Day in Normandy On Saturday, June 6, about two dozen readers took the time to send e-mails or call The Times to complain about what wasn't there: "Why no D-day coverage in the first news section of The Times on June 6?" wrote Ray DiPietro of Rancho Palos Verdes. "I have no doubt that extensive front page coverage will be provided to President Obama's speech at Normandy in the Sunday, June 7 issue. But it is a mystery to me why the Times would not print today .... the story of the 65th Anniversary of the D-day invasion and the story of the incredibly brave men who made it happen."

The lack of coverage "is a stinging insult to all the veterans who gave their lives and those who survived the horrors of that day," Lauren Flahive of West Covina wrote on June 6.

DePietro was right about the next-day coverage: On June 7, The Times published an article about the president's speech at Normandy, France, noting the 65th anniversary of the D-day invasion. Why didn't editors make note of the history behind June 6 on Saturday?

It isn't a new question, and it isn't one asked only about D-day.

Executive Editor John Arthur, who oversees the front page, responded to readers' concerns about June 6 by saying, "No one disputes how incredible D-day, or Pearl Harbor, was. That said, it's not something we put in the paper every year ahead of the commemorative events."

In other words, newspapers typically cover events as they happen, not before. As Arthur's comment implies, each Dec. 7 brings similar complaints from readers who say that The Times isn’t doing enough to honor the day of history and sacrifice. And other special days bring similar complaints – Veterans Day and religious holidays. And The Times isn’t alone among news organizations getting complaints. Judging by columns written over the years by readers’ representatives and ombudsmen, numerous readers believe their local newspaper doesn’t do enough to acknowledge the history on the day itself.

Flahive saw The Times' coverage June 7 and, told of the editors' reasoning, called it “flawed”: "Covering the commemorations the next day is insufficient and furthermore the fact that your coverage was only 1/2 page on page 19 only serves to prove my point that this anniversary means little to the L.A. Times editors …. Considering the fact that 215,000 Allied casualties occurred in the Normandy campaign alone and the fact that the Allies would most certainly have lost the war to Germany without D-day makes that date worth covering. In my opinion, it demonstrates a lack of respect for the sacrifices made as well as a disregard for the importance of recent history as a tool for understanding current events."

Editors balance the need to note important dates with the need to provide current coverage, including coverage that puts current events in context. Clearly, it's a balancing act that many readers think should be done better, and they say so each year. As an ombudsman at another paper wrote years ago when confronted with similar reader complaints: "There's a fine line between the newspaper staying in touch with loyal readers' expectations, and becoming a history calendar."

The photo that was published June 7 shows President Obama, left, Britain's Prince Charles and Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the American Cemetery in Normandy, France.

Photo credit: Francois Mori  / Associated Press