Goth Gotcha

The front page of the Style section of the Jan. 23, 2007 edition of The Washington Post is a study in liberal sensationalism applied to editorial layout. 

The section has two stories dealing with publications aimed at kids.  One is about the winners of the American Library Association's prestigious Newbery and Caldecott awards.  The other is a profile on a magazine about Goth culture.  Which story is above the fold with a color photo? It isn't the Library Association's award winners.

Granted, the Goths are more likely to catch a reader's eye. But The Post sexes up the page with a picture of a young woman in leather and chains and a provocative headline: A Piercing Look at Goth Culture and Fashion.  In the third paragraph, they mention that the featured publication, Gothic Beauty magazine, "covers the gamut of Goth lifestyle and culture ... which includes ... Krypt Kiddies dolls with fangs and horns and a 'bonus baby blood bottle' ... and the sensuous scents of Goth perfumes like Graveyard and Crypt."  The story jumps to page two with even more splashy color photos of leather-bedecked girls with black-painted eyes, lip piercings, and headlines like “Summer of Eternal Love.”

Meanwhile, the story about "the two most prestigious awards for American children's books" was placed below the fold, with nary a splash of color and a dull-as-dishwater headline: 'Lucky' Winner: Newbery, Caldecott Awards Announced.

Yawn.  The story is buried on page eight, and the Post couldn't spare any more color for the photos accompanying the article. 

Keep in mind that the Style section contains KidsPost, which offers news highlights for children. Should kids choose to glance at the front page of the section, which article do you suppose will draw their attention – the boring report about award-winning books, or the sensuous extravaganza about "counter-cultural" lifestyles?  The Post's editors stacked the deck on this one.

Parents are under constant assault on all fronts in the battle to prevent the sexualization of their children.  They've come to expect it from television and music. But editorial decisions like the ones in today's Washington Post demonstrate that parents can never let their guard down, even with the morning paper.

Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute.