Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Looks like journalism, but ...

Here's another of those what's-wrong-with-this-picture tests, brought to you by the Fair 'n' Balanced cousins:
Carter to Obama: Remove Hamas From Terror List
Former President Jimmy Carter says he will ask the Obama administration to remove the militant Palestinian group from the U.S.-designated terror list, just as Hamas says it foiled a bomb plot against Carter.
You can tell this is a big deal for Fox; at this writing, it's already generated more than 330 comments.* And it has the potential to be a big deal for grownups too, depending on what follows: "without preconditions," for one thing, or "in return for this ironclad agreement," or "at some future date, maybe, after some unspecified stuff has happened." So unless your sole need for international news is to remind you to stock up on ammo and bottled water, your next question is likely to be: How about some details?

There's the fun part, and there's where you can tell Fox from what most of us think of as "journalism." The "inverted pyramid" of news is built with broad general stuff on top, supported by details toward the bottom. Bigger details come first, so wherever you might have to cut for space, you get the big picture and (notionally) the most significant stuff that supports or explains it. All that material gets slotted in discursively, in a sort of Dialogue of the Five W's: Who's affected? What comes next? Why now? When does this take effect? What do the other actors in the story have to say? News stories look like news stories because that's what news does. "House fire" is the sort of default example you find in news textbooks, but it works just as well for earthquakes, elections, coups, royal abdications, playoff games.

This story's different, but not until you read it:

Former President Jimmy Carter will urge the Obama administration to remove Hamas from the terrorist list, FOX News has learned.

"Has learned" is there to remind you who's looking out for you. If you watched "His Girl Friday" on the teevees the other day, it's what Walter Burns meant when he asked "Doesn't the paper get any credit?" Attribution aside, though: We're cued up for details. Especially since the deck hed proclaims that Carter himself said this ... on to the evidence!

Carter, a chief defender of the U.S.-designated terror group, said Tuesday he will meet with officials in the Obama administration in two days to discuss his latest trip to the Middle East.


Meanwhile, two Palestinian sources told FOX News that the group had discovered two roadside bombs planted near a crossing between Israel and Gaza on a path Carter's convoy took to meet with the group's leaders -- Hamas advisers, though, reportedly cast doubt on claims that extremists were trying to kill Carter.

Enough with "meanwhile": How does the treasonous old waffler explain himself?

Carter was granted special waivers by the U.S. Secret Service allowing him to enter Gaza. Employees of the U.S. executive branch are not allowed into the strip since a roadside bomb killed three U.S. security personnel in 2003.


Carter was visiting with Hamas leaders to try to persuade them to accept the international community's conditions for ending its boycott of the Islamic militant group.

And? (You see a lot of secondary W's being answered, just as a news story would, but we're still waiting to hear from the White House, or Hamas, or the PM's office, or anyone who can elaborate on the main assertion.)

... Carter said he feels personally responsible that American weapons were used to fight in Gaza Strip last year, when Israeli Defense Forces entered the strip to stop the launch of rockets from there into Israel.


... According to two eyewitnesses, including a 15-year-old boy, the bombs that were found were intended to hit Carter's vehicle as he exited Gaza. There is some suspicion that Hamas extremists linked to Al Qaeda may be behind the attempt.


... But two Hamas advisers, in interviews with WorldNetDaily, denied reports that extremists were potentially behind such an alleged assassination attempt.

Now isn't that interesting? WorldNetDaily is run by and for certifiable loonies, but it often has interesting reports on Hamas because its Jerusalem writer often picks up the phone and calls Hamas! Just like journalism! And in this case, the writer also went Fox one better by asking Hamas about the Fox report:

Yousef responded to the online report telling WND he is not aware Carter will specifically make such a request.

He said, however, Carter communicated to Hamas that "one way or another" the Islamist group must do its best to meet the three conditions previously set out by the U.S. for the opening of dialogue.

Well, that'll put you right off your fresh-fried lobster. Here you've got yourself an exclusive about Barack Hussein Osama ruining the world again with the aid of the Only Worser President In History, and the only people who try to check it out are the ones who think the missing birth certificate is the story of the century, and they manage to knock a hole in your lede with one phone call.

What's genuinely interesting from the editor's perspective, again, is how much the thing looks like a news story -- until you go to the trouble of reading it. That sort of fraud** is really rare in American journalism (the British are a little more prone to it), because it's easy to get caught out at it, and if you get caught, you end up looking really amateurish, stupid and dishonest. Just another reminder that we need to avoid confusing Fox with people who actually want you to learn stuff about the world. You know, people who actually report so you can actually decide.

* Here's one that isn't obscene: "Yeah, one traitor to another..... "
** OK, granted, the lede could be true: Fox might well have "learned" this from a ouija board or something. But as to Carter's having said it, that appears to be a flat-out invention. Which won't matter to the Wills or Krauthammers who pick up the lede next week to riff on the End of the World.

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