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Betty Ford, Amy Winehouse: Who is worthy of A1?

Rrj-ford Rrj-winehouse

Which of these obituaries would you run on the front page of the newspaper: that of a well-respected former first lady, or an acclaimed yet troubled young singer?

The Times' response to this question puzzled reader Colleen Bennett of La Verne.

"OK, let me get this straight," Bennett wrote. "The L.A. Times didn't think the death of Betty Ford, former first lady and substance abuse treatment icon, deserved a front page obituary. But Amy Winehouse, a flash-in-the-pan singer who didn't see the need to recover from said substance abuse, does?"

Who is deserving is one important consideration. Deadline is another.

In this case, the editors' answer, actually, was that both Ford and Winehouse were worthy of the front page. However, as Assistant Managing Editor Joe Eckdahl explained, deadline came into play:

"On many days, production concerns and press capacity issues require us to close the front page before we send the LATExtra section to press. The news of Ford's passing came late on a Friday. We held the A1 presses long enough to ensure readers were informed of her death with a sizable photograph and an index item telling folks they could turn to LATExtra to read the full obituary."

In contrast, Winehouse's death was reported before noon Saturday, leaving plenty of time to be considered for Sunday's front page.

In terms of news space, the Ford obituary was given far greater prominence. The story dominated the cover of the LATExtra section and filled two pages inside with details and photos from her political and personal life.

The Winehouse obituary continued from the front page to about three-quarters of a page inside.

Still, it's difficult to overcome the impression of the front page. But Eckdahl said, "Be assured we meant no disrespect to former First Lady Betty Ford. Quite the contrary."

-- Deirdre Edgar

 
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Comments (7)

It also depends on the other news of the day. Would Winehouse have made the front page of the LAT if she had died during the Carmageddon weekend?

It really is a matter of timing.
Die early in the day and you will make the next day's front page.
That is, if you are front page material.

George Vreeland Hill

Q: why was amy winehouse's death and obituary much more popular than betty fords?
A: because she was a singer.

when has anybodies death ever trumped a musicians?

not saying it's right or wrong, just that's how it is?

I would have thought something that should always be on your front page should be the faces of your war dead. I look at the faces of those young men and women who are sent by your country to do their job knowing they may be killed and wonder why they do not have pride of place on the front page. Show them some respect, put the death notice of a drug addict, who also happened to have a good voice, a long way past first page.

I think anyone who had the time to bring up this issue is wasting their life and should get a clue. Who really cares about some ridiculous equivalency between an ex-First Lady and a pop star?

Go to a shelter, a food pantry ... help someone.

I'm not convinced that Winehouse warranted Page One even though I'm a fan of her music and especially her voice. My only objection is that her body of work is too small, even when compared to other members of the "27 Club."

Amy Winehouse had problems with drugs and alcohol and died at age 27.
Betty Ford had problems with script drugs and alcohol for 30+ years. To say Betty Ford should go to the head of the class because she was spun as a great leader in addiction cures avoids the 30 years she was content as an alky/junkie. It now appears that Amy may have died from alcohol withdrawal, so she did not get to party for 30 years......


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