Thursday, August 29, 2013

At the fiction factory

Hey, kids! Want to work for an awesome "24-hour news publication" like The Daily Caller? Let's warm up with a little exercise in getting a story from the provincial press ready for national distribution (as you can see at right, your work could soon be picked up at The Fox Nation and many other reputable organizations if you pay attention).

Here's your lede:

Students in a rural Kentucky county — and their parents — are the latest to join a growing national chorus of scorn for the healthy school lunches touted by first lady Michelle Obama.

“They say it tastes like vomit,” said Harlan County Public Schools board member Myra Mosley at a contentious board meeting last week, reports The Harlan Daily Enterprise.

Now see if you can answer these questions:
  • What did the students say "tastes like vomit"?
  • Whom did they address in making this complaint?
  • How often is Michelle Obama mentioned in the Daily Enterprise's story?
 Let's see how your answers stack up with what the pros do!
1) The milk
2) Dunno, but the only person repeating it is a board member
3) None. Watching too much TV, huh?

The Harlan Daily Enterprise isn't going to be jostling for a writing award with this one,* but it looks like it's had the general good sense to get its facts and quotes in order. As in the antepenultimate graf, for example:

“They say it tastes like vomit,” board member Myra Mosley said — and repeated — when the issue of school milk was raised.

The nutrition director's response?

Miniard said it was the same brand as the district has always used, but labeling has changed. He said fat content of the milk is one percent, when most people are used to two percent or whole milk. Chocolate and strawberry flavored milks are non-fat. A choice of regular skim milk is available.

If visions of your own misspent school-lunch past are starting to dance before your eyes, imagine what the top of the story looks like:

Complaints ranged from not being fed enough to food received not being good enough.

Jack Miniard, director of school and community nutrition, said new USDA regulations under the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act largely govern food choices and portion sizes. The meat or protein requirement is limited to one serving per meal. The only way for students to receive an additional serving is to purchase it themselves.

The same issue exists with carbohydrates or starches, such as potatoes (often French fries) that are limited to one serving of three-fourths of a c up, Miniard noted.  Many students also reject the brown wheat bread the cafeterias are serving now.

“It’s strange and different for them, so they don’t like it,” he said.

Getting a pattern here? Now imagine, just for a second, how the story might have looked to the Daily Caller (and Fox, and the WashTimes) if some scary brown kids from Detroit were complaining about the quality and quantity of the taxpayer-funded gubmint ObamaChow they were forced to endure. And if the scary brown president didn't have ... you know, a scary brown wife.

I don't want to spend too much time in the strange counterfactual universe of the race-baiting right, nor do I mean to suggest that the Harlan Enterprise is responsible for the fictions that journalistic play-actors spin off its reports. But if anyone in the newsroom wanted to give the Daily Caller, or Fox, or the WashTimes a call and ask if making stuff up is a prereq for a job in the big leagues, I'd like to hear about it.

* Ahem. If you haven't covered a county school board meeting or something very similar, no chortling.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home