Sunday, October 26, 2008

Cancer cured! Mideast at peace!

Must be a very slow night, or a very small world, down at the Freep when the lead story on a Sunday is -- neighbors and relatives can have different political preferences without killing each other!

Buffy Exemplarette is a staunch Barack Obama supporter, but she's also a good neighbor.

Rule 1 of story/hed/play matching is this: If you can't get a subject-verb-object hed out of the lede, you don't have a hard news story. Even squinting a bit to allow for the linking verbs in this one, we'd get: Woman is good neighbor! (Stop press)

Why is she a good neighbor? A McCain sign from a neighbor's lawn blew into her yard, and she gave it back! (Despite the urging of her handyman, a Maoist illegal immigrant who wants your daughters Democrat!) And that's important ... why?

The gesture gave a clue into how millions of Americans handle political disputes without the vitriol often seen in political campaigns. In a nation split nearly evenly between left and right, many people -- spouses, friends, in-laws, coworkers and neighbors -- tolerate beliefs they normally abhor.

You can probably write the rest yourself -- and quite possibly have, if you've written It's A Small World features for small-town newspapers before. It's fairly typical small-N-generalized wanking: find some neighbors, some colleagues and a couple who fall on either side* of some Great Divides (State vs. Michigan, paper vs. plastic, Great Taste vs. Less Filling), then write about how they all get along. The only thing that sets this apart is the writers' genuine obtuseness. Interpersonal relationships -- home, office, neighborhood -- generally don't look and sound like political campaigns because they aren't political campaigns. People don't make the same generalizations about people they know as they do about the group those people belong to; that's why, if nothing else, you can think all of Congress is corrupt and make an exception for the guy who represents you. None of which is either new or news.

If you want to bury this one back in the lifestyle section somewhere, go ahead. But don't try to pass it off as political coverage, and for Baal's sake don't stick it at the top of the front and pretend it's the biggest news story of the day.

*Take that, AP Stylebook.


OpenID outerhoard said...

I'm amused by "In a nation split nearly evenly between left and right" because, of course, in every democracy "left" and "right" are defined (in practise) as whatever splits the nation evenly. So it's a tautology at best. From a global perspective it's simply false.

11:18 PM, November 03, 2008  

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