Why bury the sarin story?

Question: Why was the story (scroll to the bottom of the page) on the confirmation of the sarin gas found in an artillery shell in Iraq relegated to Page 8? -- Webster Russell

Answer: There are actually several reasons why the sarin gas story was placed on Page 8. For starters, the story reported that tests confirmed what had been previously widely reported, i.e., the presence of sarin was discovered in a roadside bomb discovered in Baghdad.

As our story noted, no one was injured in the shell’s initial detonation, a fact that diminished the immediate impact and significance of the discovery. As you could tell from the story we published, a number of questions remain about the source of the sarin, who has it, and whether they even know what they actually had in their possession. In our view, those uncertainties made this story less important on what was a pretty busy news day.

We had three stories on the front page that day that related to Iraq and the war on terrorism. The main story that day quoted U.S. officials who warned of a new terrorist attack on the U.S. The sarin story was packaged as sidebar to that main story, placed on the "jump" page of that story. A second prominent story that day reported on the U.S. and British discussions over the transition period in Iraq. A third story and photo focused on Idaho National Guard soldiers and their families as they prepared for eventual assignment to Iraq. Simply put, we seldom put more than two or three stories on the same topic on the front page because our readers expect and demand a wider range of topics in a general interest newspaper. -- Gary Graham, managing editor

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