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In Timothy McNulty's public-editor commentary about why the Tribune sometimes puts famous people on the cover (summary: "We're not really sure we know it when we see it"), he writes:
"Tuesday, for instance, Tribune editors debated whether Lindsay Lohan's arrest--a story that dominated cable news and Web sites--deserved front-page treatment.
"They decided to put a small photo of Lohan on the front with the story inside. On Thursday, the paper revisited the Lohan saga with a front-page article about alcoholism and addiction.
"The newspaper's reluctance about celebrity news is evident considering two major tabloid celebrities, Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, have never been the subject of a front-page story despite their own brushes with the law and their ubiquitous presence on magazine newsstands."
Now, most people would point out that Britney Spears is a considerably more important entertainer than Lindsay Lohan, who is not without talent but who's also really only carried one particularly significant artistic project (Mean Girls). So I was a little perplexed about why she merits front page treatment and not Spears.
And then it hit me--she's a young person who got drunk and violated the rules of the road, and she's famous. That's four Tribune front-page points right there.
One could make a contrarian argument that the effects of alcohol and bad driving on American society are worse than, say, terrorism, and thus that the Tribune's crusade to document instances of underage drinking and car wrecks is like totally cutting edge journalism and moral besides. Don't know whether I believe that myself, but it's an idea.