Monday, June 09, 2008

And this is news ... why again?

Submitted for your consider- ation, a completely non- random sample of heds from papers that deemed the purported "milestone" in gasoline prices -- the putative "national average" crossing $4/gallon, by some thousands of a cent -- worth the lead spot on Monday's 1A.

Now. May we gently suggest that you guys are out of your collective minds? That there's nothing in this development that rates the front page, let alone the top of it? That of all the things you could try to tempt your fleeing readers with, the "national average" gasoline price is one of the few that's guaranteed to be meaningless to all of them?

Look at it this way. Here are two (exclusive and exhaustive) conditions:
1) You pay $4 or more for a gallon of gasoline
2) You don't

In neither case are you affected by the mean national price. If gasoline did "climb past $4" for you, it did so independently of any averages. And if it didn't, it didn't (meaning there's also no relation between you and the national average). There's plenty of news out there (much of it, say, pertaining to how gasoline prices get to be the way they are). Could we have some of that, rather than a collective intake of breath over an often-friendly measure of central tendency that, in this case, has nothing to do with how any readers go about their lives?

3 Comments:

Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

What? You're asking for them to do some digging, some analysis, some connecting of the dots? Slapping one giant dot onto the front page is so much easier, not to mention dramatic.

But where gas has been over $4 for a while, yeah... Silly headline.

5:46 AM, June 10, 2008  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

I'll say this for the WaPo: their hed was:
Fuel Prices Challenge Cars' Reign

with a subhed (deck?) of:
$4 Gas Transforms Buying Habits, Affecting Everything From Vacations to Pizza Orders

11:52 AM, June 10, 2008  
Blogger fev said...

I like the main hed a lot better. For the deck, I'd raise the same concern I would have about all the 'Obama makes history' heds last week: Of all the data points in the continuum for which this is true, why single today's out.

With Obama, I can see a slightly better case for the delegate count (though heds have been proclaiming that history has been made for five months now). With the gasoline milestone, I doubt that "$4 gas" is doing anything to pizza delivery or vacation plans that $3.85, or $3.99, didn't already do.

(In the jargon I learned, 'subheds' are small in-text heds breaking up sections of body type, and 'decks' are separate units of display type above the story. Mileage varies; jargon comes with status markers, and most of mine is marked late Jurassic or early Cretaceous)

12:32 AM, June 11, 2008  

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