Election Day: The Worst Day for Headlines in American Journalistic History

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Election Day, as everyone knows, is the most sacred of days in America’s civic religionthe pageant of democracy, the fundamental exercise of self-government, the day citizens in their millions get to choose their own leaders.

For the Fourth Estate, meanwhile, the first Tuesday in November is rather less glorious.

On no other day of the year do America’s newspapersand websites, and televisual chyronsfeature such banal headlines. It’s hard not to feel for the folks who have to write them: Hemmed in by a lack of news on one side and an institutional culture that shrinks from any appearance of bias on the other, the great American broadsheets go through a quadrennial exercise in adorning their front pages with news that is at once accurate, unbiased, and utterly unsurprising.

Thus do some of the most storied champions of the free press feature front-page scoops that boil down to this: Today is the day when many citizens will vote, and the results of their votes will determine the president.

Stop the presses!

Courtesy of the Newseum’s daily compendium of America’s newspaper front  pages, a selection of this year’s classic election-morning headlines:

“2 CHASE WINNING VOTES TO END” – Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

“IT’S NOW IN VOTERS’ HANDS” – Fresno Bee

“IT’S ALL UP TO THE SWING STATES” – Los Angeles Times

“ALL OVER NOW BUT THE VOTING” – San Francisco Chronicle

“IT’S DECISION TIME” – Oakland Tribune

“NOW, IT’S THE VOTERS’ TURN TO SPEAK” – The Washington Post

“FINAL COUNTDOWN” – Miami Herald

“DECISION DAY FOR AMERICA” – Pensacola News-Journal

“CAMPAIGN ENDS; NOW VOTERS’ TURN” – Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“ELECTION DAY DAWNS” – Moline (Ill.) Dispatch

“THIS IS IT, AMERICA” - St. Paul Pioneer Press

“RIVALS RACE FOR DECISION DAY” – Albuquerque Journal

“STATE BY STATE, BATTLE FOR PRESIDENCY GOES TO VOTERS” – New York Times

“WHO GETS OUR VOTE?” – Lima (Oh.) News

“STATE VOTERS HEAD TO POLLS FOR NATIONAL, LOCAL ELECTIONS” – The Oklahoman

“IT’S ALL OVER BUT THE COUNTING” – Politico

“ELECTION DAY IS FINALLY HERE” – The Reporter (Fond du Lac, Wi.)

“IT’S ELECTION DAY!” – The Columbian (Vancouver, Wa.)

Hard to disagree with any of that!

It’s not all banality, though. The good citizens of Modesto, Ca awoke to “BABY’S GRANDMOTHER HELD,” a piece about a child-endangerment case that ran in the Modesto Bee. Denver residents got “DA OPENS GENSLER PROBE,” a Denver Post piece about an investigation into alleged impropriety by Colorado’s Secretary of State. The Tampa Tribune splashed “FAILED LAWSUIT COSTS UTILITY $20M” across its front page, though the exercise in scoopdom was marred by an adjacent piece titled “PRESIDENCY NOW RESTS IN THE HANDS OF VOTERS.” And in Battle Creek, Mich., there’s a meaty front-page lede under the Battle Creek Enquirer’s banner headline “FAMILY WONDERS WHY MATTHEW DANIELS HAD TO DIE.”

Follow the links to relieve your pre-vote tedium.

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