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The Jimmy Find

(AP)
In news that likely has New York Giants fans feeling somewhat ambivalent, federal agents this week began digging up a horse farm northwest of Detroit in search of the remains of former Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa, who disappeared in 1975.

As far as we know, they don't have anything yet, other than the belief that this is the "best lead" in a while in the Hoffa investigation. The uncertainty means that media organizations don't have a clear sense of how to cover the investigation. All three of last night's nightly news broadcasts covered the story, but they gave it very different play. The CBS "Evening News" treated the investigation like big news, making it the second story in the broadcast, after one on the approval of a vaccine for cervical cancer and before a story on the Senate Hayden hearings and an interview with President Bush. The story got more than three minutes on the broadcast, more than all but one other story.

The NBC "Nightly News," meanwhile, gave Hoffa less play – the story came fifth in the broadcast, after Hayden, Bush, the vaccine, and a study on the risks of Vioxx. ABC's "World News Tonight" didn't get to Hoffa until just about the end of the broadcast. The only story that came afterwards was one on unusual baby names. (I'm sure they sent their thank yous for that one to Jenny 8.)

As Editor & Publisher's Joe Strupp pointed out yesterday, Detroit's newspapers had an even greater disconnect in news judgment when it came to the Hoffa story:

The Detroit News ran the story as one of only three Page One pieces today, with related elements on its Web site that included a review of the numerous theories about Hoffa's demise that have arisen in the past decade.

"The feds have raised the level of interest on this," Dave Butler, who has served as editor and publisher of the News since it was purchased by MediaNews group last year, says about his paper's larger approach. "The site is reasonably close to where he was last seen."

The Detroit Free Press, however, had no front page mention of the newest Hoffa search, with not even a teaser to its inside story. The paper chose instead to run a special report on a track coach's sex-filled parties, General Motors problems, and the Detroit Piston's playoff woes. On the Web, meanwhile, only a single story about the search could be found, with no additional links.

How much play should the story have gotten? It's a tough call. There's no real news yet, but there is a decent chance there will be. (Though there can be pitfalls in hyping stories like this – cough Geraldo cough Al Capone's vault cough.) Anyway, people do seem to be interested: As of noon today, the story was the #3 most popular story on CBSNews.com.
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