Friday, May 8, 2009

The Berlin Wall:

The Washington Post heralded the fall of the Berlin Wall as “the most stunning step since World War II toward ending the East-West division of Europe.” The momentous event occurred November 10, 1989 when a top East German official, faced with political crises, granted free travel to its citizens. One story from The Washington Post and another from USA Today, are two of many that appeared on the front page of many publications’ final edition for that day. These two stories contrast significantly, particularly in regards to their content. It should be noted however that although both stories appeared on each publications’ front page, they strongly differ in length, the Post piece running 1,651 words and USA Today’s piece only 312 words. The piece published by the Post is their only one regarding the wall, whereas USA Today featured many short articles on the issue.

Sources for USA Today’s article consist mainly of U.S. political officials stating their reaction to the news of the wall. The Washington Post also lists several top U.S. officials, but also includes quotes from West Berlin’s mayor, East Germans, Berliners, and several media correspondents. The reason for such great disparity is the content within the Post piece covers more than that of USA Today.

USA Today begins with a somber tone, by mentioning candles and wooden crosses that stand in remembrance of those who attempted to escape to West Berlin, instead of focusing on the joyous celebration as The Washington Post does. USA Today then segues into the highlights of the day, mainly listing the reactions of several U.S. officials. The Washington Post instead begins by stating East Germany’s decision allowing the unregulated traffic of its citizens to West Germany. The article continues with a brief history of the two Germanys, facts regarding the wall and short anecdotes of celebration in Berlin accompanied by quotes from East Germans. A noteworthy element of the Post piece, although not uncommon, is its reference (within the article) to other related stories featured elsewhere in the paper.

The Washington Post segues into a discussion of East German political infrastructure. The Post mentions a conference to be held in a then nearing December, where the communist government would consider a series of proposals and demands made by the party. Also mentioned was the resignation of the 44-member cabinet from the People’s Chamber legislature, paving the way for new governance. The Washington Post concludes with that although travel may have been significantly deregulated, the East German leader, Egon Krenz stands in opposition to free elections as he says he believes that free elections have always existed.

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