Monday, December 31, 2018

Is Fox News scared of girls?

What do you suppose is the second-most-important story on this last day of the year for the Fair 'n' Balanced Network?

Incoming Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., pledged to voters she would be a far-left outsider who would push her party toward adopting “democratic socialist” policies, including universal health care and free college tuition. So far, she has kept her promise.

OK, fine, anybody could leave the "opinion" label off a rant from the Dearborn Institute. But you still might be wondering what propels some topics to the top of the agenda so often at (ahem) certain outlets. On the front page* yesterday, for example:

Or blaspheming the Gospel According to Fox as the lead story on Dec. 26:

Or Dec. 22, reprising her regular summertime role as "Dem darling":

Demonstrating that librul sense of entitlement (twice) on Dec. 20:

Committing that librul hypocrisy with big scary eyes on Dec. 19:

Coaxing her hapless followers to assault the Constitution on Dec. 13:

Striking the same pose to lead the War On Our Economy on Dec. 10:

Committing lese-majeste all over Trump Jr.  on Dec. 7:

Raising the spectre of first-year macroeconomics courses on Dec. 4:

Raising the spectre of Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire on Dec. 3:

Offending Fox's sense of history on Dec. 1:
Offending Lindsey Graham's sense of history as the lead story on Nov. 26:

The "compares" stories are Fox at its most Foxlike: not lying about a specific set of facts, but bullshitting about the sort of story the facts are allowed to form. Here, for example, is the bit about the caravan** to which Graham "fires back":

“Asking to be considered a refugee & applying for status isn’t a crime. It wasn’t for Jewish families fleeing Germany. It wasn’t for targeted families fleeing Rwanda. It wasn’t for communities fleeing war-torn Syria. And it isn’t for those fleeing violence in Central America,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted late Sunday.

... "I recommend she take a tour of the Holocaust Museum in DC. Might help her better understand the differences between the Holocaust and the caravan in Tijuana," Graham tweeted.

Ocasio-Cortez seems to be talking about the policies surrounding refugee status, not the conditions any particular group might have been fleeing, so it's hard to see why she needs a tour of the Holocaust Museum any more than Lindsey Graham does.*** But angry old men do have a habit of bringing out the history stick when the young and the uppity need to be brought back into line. It's fine for Ronald Reagan to boast of setting out to change a country, but let the usurping Kenyan test-drive that idea and see what happens.

I think that's part of the reason for Fox's six-month-long panic over this particular 0.23% of the next House of Representatives. It's always possible that Ocasio-Cortez used to beat Fox up on the playground and steal its lunch money, but the real reason seems less fanciful: Fox is scared of girls. Actually, Fox is scared of lots of people who don't look like Tucker Carlson, especially when they articulate original ideas, demonstrate regular flashes of wit, and bump right back if you bump them while they're going to the basket. But mostly, Fox is scared of girls.

* Y'all didn't flop the picture just to get her looking in the right direction, did you?
** Even by Fox standards, the homepage hed is pretty stupid. On the story itself, the hed is "Ocasio-Cortez compares members of migrant caravan to Jews fleeing Nazi Germany."
*** If they'd like to have a nice talk about refugee policy in paranoid times, here's a photo of a refugee family being separated, next to a story about an autocratic leader who wants to purge some officers and says his country won't be pushed around anymore (Washington Post, 1A, June 5, 1939):

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Sunday, December 30, 2018

The jawbone of a ... wait, what?

Did the cliche selection on the edit page look a little familiar this morning? No wonder. Somebody might have been reading the news section on Thursday:
Or the front page the previous Friday:

Indeed, you might fairly wonder how anyone can get over the amazement long enough to write a story:

The math of a GM/FCA merger would be "jaw dropping," the letter said, noting that Marchionne had once predicted that an automaker merger would lead to more than $5 billion in cost savings every year over four years. (Nov. 10)

On paper, from every angle, the allure of a Ford-VW partnership globally would be jaw-dropping, analysts said. (Oct. 16)
It's about time for the annual word ban from the cousins up at Lake Superior State, so just to be clear -- no. This is not a call for a general word ban (though if LSSU is going after "drill down," the least they could do is nail "deep dive" as well*). I do think that (ahem) some outlets could stand a few targeted word restrictions. Start small: Once someone uses "jaw-dropping," it's off-limits to the rest of the staff for the next 30 days. Imagine the fun when we extend the principle to "iconic."

Now, what about reformed sinners: writers who demonstrate some evidence of good faith by (apparently) learning what a word means?

2. Beto O'Rourke: The guy just lost a Senate race. And yet, here we are with O'Rourke in second. It's tough not to pay attention to a candidate who seems to have energized Democratic activists in Iowa, won the straw poll (showing he has some oomph with grassroots progressives), has won plaudits from Obama and is making moves toward running.

Granted, that's an improvement over the record:

Meanwhile, 52% have "not too much," and 23% have no confidence at all in elected officials looking out for their best interests. Oomph. (4/26/18)

Particularly when the word in question is mistaken for a paragraph: 

"I think Nancy Pelosi looks like that all the time," Sanders said on CNN's "New Day." "I think she should smile a lot more often, I think the country would be better for it."


"He is in the business of making money, and he has been successful both in television as well as Miss America and others. I was raised in the concept and belief that duty, honor, country is the lodestar for behavior that we have to exhibit every single day." (Trump actually used to own the Miss Universe Organization.)


"In private, three administration officials conceded that they could not publicly articulate their most compelling — and honest — defense of the president for divulging classified intelligence to the Russians: that Mr. Trump, a hasty and indifferent reader of his briefing materials, simply did not possess the interest or the knowledge of the granular details of intelligence gathering to leak specific sources and methods of intelligence gathering that would harm American allies."


Points for figuring out that "oomph" is something Clara Bow has, not what you say when Batman punches you in the gut (a sense of "oof" that the OED dates to the 18th century, only without Batman). I'm not convinced that the move from error to anachronism is a cure. And every now and then, when Star Writer wails "but that's my STYLE!!", the best reply is: Find another style.

* "Gig economy," on the other hand, should stick around. Here's the LSSU complaint:

Gigs are for musicians and stand-up comedians. Now expanded to imply a sense of freedom and a lifestyle that rejects tradition in a changing economic culture.

Correct-ish veering into nonsense. Gigs are something musicians do; they can be "one-night stands," as the OED has it, or they can be regular and long-term; What LSSU seems to be missing is the idea that working in a "gig economy" also means working without benefits or an expectation of permanence. I suggest sticking with "gig economy," at least until we have a better sense of whether its participants are rejecting tradition or tradition is rejecting them.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

A county far, far away

This is a strange sort of prepositional phrase to encounter in a newspaper whose first name is "Detroit," don't you think?

The estate is being audited by the IRS, which filed a claim this month in a county probate court north of Detroit.

In addition to having Canada to the south, Detroit has quite a few counties to the north of it -- perhaps this would mean one of the far-distant ones where they're still upset that they didn't get to vote for Wallace again in 2016? Here's the eighth graf:

... At the time of her death, Franklin owned a home in Oakland County's Bloomfield Township. The IRS filed the claim this month in Oakland County Probate Court in Pontiac.

So a county "north of Detroit" is actually "the one you hit as soon as you cross 8 Mile on Woodward going north"? About one weak single up the middle away from Detroit? The sort of point you might want to make at the outset for your local audience when editing a story that appears to have been meant for a national audience?

That's one data point, but when you come to this feature* three pages later, it starts to be a pattern:
I wouldn't expect even an unusually obsessive rimrat to add an "8 1/2 hours southwest of Detroit, give or take," and to be fair, "just a couple hours from Rosine" won't help very many of you out there.** But -- assuming you actually don't want the space to go to waste -- could you maybe locate the dateline city in relation to Louisville or St. Louis or even (given the subject matter) Fort Campbell?

The space thing is worth mentioning because, counting the open page for national and international news (three border/immigration stories, five briefs and an Amos Oz obit***), this story takes up a third of the news hole for stuff outside Michigan. Since you can't go back in time and unmake that decision, you might as well put some time into making the story accessible to your audience.

That, after all, is the point of editing -- not to see whose stylebook is the more excruciatingly trivial, but to make sure that your readers can get to the stuff they need by the most efficient route (which is also the argument against thumb ledes, POVs and other things that are still worth disputing). 

The Guild's complaint about the latest sad news from Cleveland -- "Local news will suffer if the people editing and fact-checking it don't live here" -- has never been a perfect defense against offshoring. Indeed, if you can't be bothered to look at a map while editing and the editor at the faraway hub can, it's not much of a defense at all. But it does suggest that careful people applying smart principles on behalf of a specific audience are, on the whole, going to make decisions that are both more palatable and more valuable. There's a Cleveland equivalent of being reasonably confident that your Detroit readers know where Pontiac and Oakland County are, and the local paper needs more people like that making decisions, not fewer.

 * Not on the site, so the link is to the originating paper.
** You know who you are.
*** Good call.

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Friday, December 28, 2018

The chaff machine at work and play

Must be busy times during the holiday season at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network -- so busy that someone left the fair-n-balanced sauce out of the No. 3 story on Thursday afternoon. The apparent oversight was fixed ere long:
And Fox's reputation for scrupulous impartiality survives to fight another day.

The chaff machine, of course, is still turned up to 11. Here's the lead story from Friday morning:
Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team reportedly obtained a “nude selfie” during the process of investigating whether Russia colluded with the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election.

An attorney for Concord Management and Consulting LLC, a Russian firm that has been in the crosshairs of the Mueller team for allegedly interfering in the election, made the odd claim in court filings on Thursday.

“Could the manner in which he collected a nude selfie really threaten the national security of the United States?” lawyer Eric Dubelier asked in a filing that supports a motion to compel discovery.

We continue in this wise for another seven grafs, though somehow Fox overlooks a detail from the story it rewrote from The Hill. Here's the WashTimes version:

Special counsel Robert Mueller is leaving no stone unturned in his quest for evidence of Russian collusion.

A Russian company is accusing the special counsel of having “collected a nude selfie” as part of the probe.

... The filing says the picture is among millions of records Mr. Mueller has collected as evidence but is not willing to disclose on national-security grounds.

Millions, you say? Takes some of the Naked Gunnishness out of the lede.

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Monday, December 10, 2018

Elongated yellow determinism

On the bright side, we're spared the "tundra-trailblazing beavers" of the main headline.

Thanks, as always, to the Bremner Editing Center and Elongated Yellow Fruit Presidential Library.


Friday, December 07, 2018

Of all the gun joints ...

Look, I know it must be busy up at the Washington Times these days, and the "u" and the "i" are right next to each other and all that, but still -- could we give the big type just ONE more look before pushing the button?

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