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Is ‘Obama apologizes’ a big story? Depends on where you look

Eric Pfeiffer
Yahoo News
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The New York Times noted President Obama's apology on its front page with a 20-word blurb.

When the President of the United States apologizes to the American public, that’s a pretty big story, right? Well, it all depends on where you get your news.

On Thursday, President Obama told NBC News that he is sorry millions of Americans are losing their current health care plans.

As the news broke, it quickly became the lead story on NBC and across the three major cable news networks: The Fox News Channel, CNN and MSNBC. Yahoo treated it as a major news story, promoting it prominently on our front page. Within an hour, the story had generated more than 5,000 comments. By Friday morning, more than 30,000 comments were posted.

It was clearly an important story of the day. So why, then, did most of the country's major newspapers give Obama's apology very little, if any, promotion on their front pages?

(Click here for a slideshow of how the major metropolitan newspapers treated the Obama apology.)

It was the most-read story online for the Wall Street Journal, according to the paper’s own metrics. But it was nowhere to be found on the paper’s front page or on its online news home.

Over at the New York Times, the apology was mentioned in a 20-word blurb at the bottom of a story about health coverage for mental illness. “Obama Apologies: The president said he was sorry some people were forced off their health insurance plans despite his assurances.” However, the actual story itself was relegated to page A14.

Other stories on the cover of The New York Times included U.S. negotiations with Iran, the FDA seeking a ban on trans fat, Hollywood's love affair with Hillary Clinton, cuts in food stamps and a feature on anti-Semitic slurs at an area school.

In a statement to Capital New York, New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson defended her paper’s decision to not prominently feature the president’s apology.

"The mental health story was ours exclusively and affects millions of people," she said. "The Obama story was an 'every one has it' story." Abramson added that the apology is "an important development in the ongoing controversy over the messy rollout of the HCA, which we cover very aggressively.”

"The politics story is important, but in this case how a change in policy will affect people seemed more so," Abramson.

It should be noted that Obama's apology included a pledge to "do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this." And just last week, when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius apologized for the Affordable Care Act’s website troubles, the New York Times featured a four-column photo of Sebelius at the top of the their front page.

But the New York Times is hardly alone in downplaying Obama's apology. The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Sun-Times and the Denver Post ignored the story completely. The Boston Globe also went with a front-page blurb, pushing the story to A8.

Of the top-10 circulated papers, only the USA Today, Washington Post and San Jose Mercury News placed stories on their front pages. The New York Post and Daily News both featured large photos pointing readers to stories on the following pages.

 

Jay Hart contributed to this story

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