Headlines in a recent issue of a state newspaper gave an eye-blink story of our state, nation and world:
"GOP legal challenge to election kept alive."
"Entrepreneurs seek new ways to mine the Web."
"Abu Ghraib defendant: I knew abuse was wrong."
"Seattle law firm caught in glare of spotlight aimed at lobbyist."
"Seattle climber dies in bid to help fight fatal disease."
Of course, in the first few pages there were headlines celebrating the macabre: "Worker's finger found in frozen custard," and "Fiancée stands by runaway bride."
It was on Page A9 of this particular daily paper that the first headline concerning current news of the wars - Afghanistan and Iraq - appeared: "Dozens die in Afghan explosion." It was right next to a headline: "Hitler 'sank into himself' in final days, nurse says."
The Afghan story was on Page A13; the smallish headline appeared at the bottom of the news columns, just above a Newspaper in Education serial story titled "Class Pets."
The story was about two U.S. soldiers and an improvised explosive device at the Baghdad International Airport.
One soldier, unnamed, died; his comrade was wounded.
Since March 2003, when the Iraq war began, officials say 1,804 United States soldiers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. There was no mention in the story if that number included the death of the unnamed soldier or it was yesterday's number.
And the war rocks on.
And news about Hitler's last days at the end of World War II; a cold-footed, would-be bride who got on a bus to escape the anxiety of an approaching wedding; a piece of finger in a frozen dessert; and a silly serial story about the Republicans and Democrats still arguing over who is really governor all are considered more important news fare than yet another soldier dying in the Middle East.
This is not an issue of news judgment, but one of personal and national priorities.
When the death of an American soldier fighting in a foreign country is considered less newsworthy than a lengthy piece on a Seattle law firm being investigated in connection with a lobbying probe, something is definitely askew.
1,804. And counting.
George Smith is the executive director of the Washington Newspapers Publishers Association and may be reached by sending him an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.