Saturday, February 16, 2019

Only one of these things can be true

How many guns, Local Daily Paper?

ARLINGTON, Virginia – Former U.S. Rep. John Dingell of Dearborn, the longest-serving member of Congress in its history, was laid to rest on Friday at Arlington National Cemetery, in a military ceremony that included a 21-gun salute

Hmm. How many guns, Other Local Daily Paper?
Since nobody seems to have cranky copy editors who remember these things around any more, you can actually look them up:

The elements of military funeral honors include:

  • A casket team (body bearers / pall bearers)
  • A firing party
  • A bugler
  • Folding of and Presentation of our National Colors
... Officers in the rank of colonel and above in the Army and the Marine Corps may be provided a caparisoned (riderless) horse, if available. General/flag officers of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard may receive a cannon salute (17 guns for a four-star general, 15 for a three-star, 13 for a two-star, 11 for a one-star), if available. Minute Guns may be used for general officers/flag officers of the Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps. The President of the United States is entitled to a 21-gun salute, while other high state officials receive 19 guns. The cemetery staff will make arrangements for military funeral honors when requested by the next of kin. A military chaplain may also be requested. 

Which paper do you think got it right?

Not to linger too long here, but there's also the small matter of the cutlines. Here's the Freep (print):

Rep. Debbie Dingell, wife of former Congressman John D. Dingell, reacts along with Jim Dingell, brother of the iconic lawmaker, right, during the burial service with honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

And the News (online):

Army Lt. Col. Allen Kehoe of the Old Guard presents the flag from the casket of former Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., to his wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., during burial services at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday, Feb. 15, 2019 in Arlington, Va. To Debbie Dingell's right are John Dingell's younger siblings, Jim Dingell and Jule Walowac, and his son Christopher Dingell.

Both photographers were in about the same place (here's the AP shot from the News):

Who's at right, and who's on Rep. Dingell's right? I'd bet on the Freep in this case, though that's no reason to use either "reacts" or "iconic."

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Friday, February 15, 2019

Adventures in punctuation

There's still quite a bit to get through in Fox's coverage of the Amazon contretemps (let alone the week's Fox coverage of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez), but the punctuation hijinx in this short-lived frontpage story are amusing:

Outspoken singer Cher took to Twitter on Friday to slam New York City's role in Amazon's decision to walk away from its planned headquarters there.

The Jeff-Bezos lead company announced Thursday it was turning back on its plans to build its second headquarters in New York City after backlash from lawmakers, notably Ocasio-Cortez, who bemoaned the project.


What on earth could cause Fox to make common cause with Cher, Jeff Bezos and Andrew Cuomo? Tune in tomorrow for more!

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'To the brink of war'

If you're one of those Hannity viewers who were disappointed beyond measure that you missed an ad for a documentary about the great German-American Bund rally of February 1939, relax. Here's what it looked like the following day at the World's Greatest Newspaper.

No, of course the headline doesn't want you to fight Nazis (be serious; it's the Trib in 1939). It's a classic flying verb or "implied subject" headline -- somebody fought some Nazis, but we can't tell you who and still make the hed big enough to carry the page, so calm down.* But with midtown New York "thrown into a turmoil," it still seems to have been a rather big deal, even half a continent away. A recounting of that event is what Fox News deemed "not appropriate for our air," according to the Hollywood Reporter.**

You can see how the page overall would create a bit of cognitive dissonance for the committed Fox viewer. There's a Carey Orr cartoon bashing the New Deal, but the "attacks on foreign governments" are actually "driving away our customers." There's a mayoral hopeful warning that a vote for Democrats in the mayoral primary "is a vote in support of the war-bent national Democratic administration." But the really confusing part has to be that attack on rampant executive powers in the first column:

The house*** today heard demands that President Roosevelt be stripped of the extraordinary powers granted him in "emergency" legislation during the six years of his administration.

The President was charged with dragging this nation to the brink of war because of his use of some of those powers to take sides in European and Asiatic conflicts. A special Republican committee, recently appointed to study the extraordinary powers of Mr. Roosevelt, led the attack with a request for liquidation of the Export-Import Bank as soon as is consistent with its present commitments. A bitter fight ensued when the house banking and currency committee sought approval of a resolution to continue the existence of the bank until June 30, 1941. The bank expires by law next June 30. 


Rep. Ham Fish has heard that the Ex-Im Bank "recently sent 23 million dollars to China," and he is none too pleased:

... The first purchase made by the Chinese government was 1,000 war trucks, he said. This constituted a direct violation of the neutrality policy of the United States, he charged, and put this country in the position of affronting the Japanese invaders of China.

Results in Entanglements
"This is only one instance of the manner in which the administration, through the special powers delegated to the President by a jittery congress, is involving the United States in foreign entanglements," Fish said.



Good thing Congress was exercising its authority over spending, right? Especially given that our relationship with the Japanese invaders is a good one and nobody's tougher on China than we are.

Anyway, aren't you sorry you missed the ad?

* Hint: It's the "50,000 foes of Bund held back by police" in the deck. It takes some work to figure out the Trib's style on cutoff rules under a streamer.
** Some newspapers were a little overenthusiastic. Here's the Washington Post ,Feb. 11

Some viewers of Fox News Channel’s “Hannity” on Monday night will get a jolting image: scenes from a rally of American Nazis in New York.

The images are meant not as promotion but as a warning: They will come as part of a 30-second spot for “A Night at the Garden,” a new Oscar-nominated documentary short about the rally of the German Bund at New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1939. It was directed by the liberal-minded filmmaker Marshall Curry.

*** Lowercase "house" was Trib style.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Double hat trick of iconic forbidden things

This is one of those issues you live for in Copy Editor Bingo: a Triple Forbidden Things Score on one page,  bisected by a Triple Forbidden Word Score running vertically through the A section.

At top, on the business front, there's a Stupid Question in the hed, followed by an "iconic" teeing up a perfectly formed Elongated Yellow Fruit in the second graf:

Called the "Sole of the UX," the tires were revealed at Elliott’s New York Fashion Week after-party on February 9. They were modeled after Elliott's AF1 shoe partnership with Nike. The iconic perforated leather shoes, which retail for $150 a pair, are sold out on Nike's website. 


What really makes the magic, though, is the intersecting iconic axis, starting on page 2A:
and going on to the second business page (12A):
 We're not in the word-banning business around here, really. But some shops can feel free to put particular words off limits until the susceptible get over it. In rule form, it goes something like: If you're tempted to call something "iconic," that's a sign that you don't need to.

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Today in public opinion reporting

And how do we back up our authoritative claim about whom Those Blacks are lukewarm on, Reagan's Favorite Newspaper?

Democrats have the highest-powered and most diverse potential presidential field in history, including two candidates who are black — yet two black leaders say none of them stands out so far.

And if you had Feb. 13 in the office pool for "day on which the Washington Times neglects to run screaming in fear at the mention of Black Lives Matter," you can retire to your tropical island now:

Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat and former mayor of Newark, doesn’t have a great reputation with activists, said Hawk Newsome, president of Black Lives Matter in greater New York. Sen. Kamala D. Harris, a California Democrat whose parents were Indian and Jamaican, has a problematic background as a former prosecutor, he said.
...
Tanya Faison, a Black Lives Matter leader in Sacramento, California, is also dissatisfied with the two black senators. She said Mr. Booker is generally OK but could be doing more, whereas she doesn’t support Ms. Harris at all.

Certainly interesting points, but you can see why the WashTimes almost immediately thought better of its original hed:

OK, not much of an improvement, but you have to admit -- it is an improvement, right? OK, sorry. You don't. It isn't.

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Monday, February 11, 2019

Fox News is REALLY scared of girls

Mommy, why is the scary lady the lead story at the Fair 'n' Balanced network again?

A top adviser to New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has admitted that an official "Green New Deal" document posted by Ocasio-Cortez's office contained a guarantee of economic security even for those "unwilling to work" -- but not before he went viral in progressive circles for claiming the exact opposite, repeatedly, in an interview with Fox News' "Tucker Carlson Tonight."

Hard to see how that adds up to a schooling of the "freshman Dem," but you can tell there's still nothing that scares Fox News quite as much as Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. She's so scary, indeed, that she was the subject of the commentary in the No. 3 position on Sunday afternoon as well:

We are reaching a turning point that will forever determine our future -- how we live our lives and how our children will live theirs.  The gap between the ever-widening left and right has never been wider, and yet amazingly it continues to widen.

Every time we turn on a TV, open a laptop or listen to the radio, another bizarre, offbeat, outlandish idea brings us closer to socialism and the destruction of capitalism. And it is being pushed by the left.

Here she is again on Feb. 9 -- the almost-as-scary Ilhan Omar is the lead story, but there's another commentary in the No. 2 position in case you thought the socialist menace was retreating:

The Democratic Party’s lurch to socialism led to a presidential rebuke at the State of the Union on Tuesday night. From Sen. Bernie Sanders’s call for “Medicare-for-all,” to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal of a “Green New Deal,” to Democratic presidential hopefuls’ hankering for stiff tax hikes, prominent members of the Democratic Party seem unwilling to miss any opportunity to advocate for greater government control of the economy.

Yet as Democrats justify grandiose proposals by decrying income inequality, many of us who immigrated to the United States from socialist countries see great irony. After all, unending income equality is what drove us to leave our native lands in the first place.


Ocasio-Cortez is the lead story three times on Feb. 8 (note that the third example has another twofer with the "slam" from a Wall Street Journal columnist; Ocasio-Cortez herself is mentioned exactly once in "Guns, Grub and Driveways"):




 And the lead story twice on Feb. 7:

She was especially scary on Feb. 6, the day after the State of the Union address. It's tempting to score this as a hat trick, but the "sullen Dems" in the commentary at the No. 2 spot isn't quite conclusive):
She was the lead story on Feb. 5:
... with, in a different daypart, another commentary meant to reinforce the danger of it all:


It’s been two years since the end of the Obama presidency and in that span, the mainstream Democratic Party has made an extreme shift to the far left.  In 2019 the Democrats have put their weight behind increased taxes, universal health care, open borders, and third-trimester abortions.

How do we account for this radical trend?


I don't know, dude. No Schlitz, Blatz. No Blatz, improvise. But of course, she was also the top story on Feb. 4:
Imagine, using the guest list to score political points. But there were two other downpage appearances that day as well:
Another lead story on Feb. 3:
Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore declared U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez the new leader of the Democratic Party, while urging political moderates to take a position because there “is no middle ground anymore.”

“She is the leader. Everybody knows it. Everybody feels it,” Moore said of the freshman congresswoman from New York during a Friday interview on MSNBC.


For a Friday story at the top of the Sunday page, that seems singularly low-bore, but perhaps Fox is unusually scared of Michael Moore too. Or it could have been trying to make up for lost time, in that there seem to have been no stories about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez among the top five on Feb. 2! There was, though, this to start the month:
New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez acknowledged her “privilege” as a “cisgendered woman” during a podcast interview this week, explaining she will never know the “trauma” of being transgender.

The progressive-favorite’s comments came during a wide-ranging discussion with The Intercept, a liberal news site.


Fox has its usual liberal hand with the scare quotes, though whence the hyphen in "progressive-favorite" is beyond me. That's probably not as interesting as Fox's inability to decide among "democratic socialist," "Democratic Socialist" and "Democratic socialist," or its swinging back and forth in January between Ocasio-Cortez's family name and given name, or assorted substitutes like "AOC" and "Alex," or the more customary "Dem Socialist darling." Indeed, there's a whole catalog of frontpage representations from January that just kept getting -- overtaken by events. 

Our question at the end of the year was whether Fox News is scared of girls. The first few weeks of 2019 seem pretty conclusive. Fox News is absolutely petrified of girls. If you are a girl, please don't knock Fox News down on the playground and take its lunch money.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Meeting on a jet plane

How are things on the opera/romance front, Nation's  Newspaper of Record?

An article on Page 10 about the challenges of contemporary opera performance misstates the subtitle of a Robert Ashley opera being revived in New York. The full title is “Improvement (Don Leaves Linda),” not “Improvement (Don Meets Linda).”

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Sunday, February 03, 2019

Today in clickbaiting

Doesn't the headline just fill you with the urge to click on through and see what the answer is? That seems to be the mission, at least; the Fox News website has discovered the magic of clickbaitery and is jumping in with enthusiasm.

Not too artfully, though. If you're going to have a cliffhanger in the No. 5 spot on the homepage for Super Bowl Sunday, it probably shouldn't be the same one that was in the No. 5 spot on the homepage last Monday:
 You might even think a lede that refers to the Super Bowl as "next Sunday" was a bit of a giveaway:

Whether the New England Patriots win or lose Super Bowl 53 against the Los Angeles Rams next Sunday, Tom Brady is not ready to ride off into the sunset just yet.

When asked during an interview with ESPN that aired Sunday if there was any chance his ninth Super Bowl would be his NFL swan song, Brady said: "Zero," curling his thumb and fingers into a "0" shape to emphasize the point.

 

And there's always that pesky label over the story noting that it was posted "6 days ago":
So Fox seems a little slow in getting the hang of the whole clickbaiting thing. Maybe it should put the starters back in or preach the gospel of RTFP more loudly or something.

Being of the generation for which the whole point of the headline is to tell people something they didn't know, I have a deep dislike for clickbaiting in all its forms and guises. I'm not at all sure how widely that feeling is shared. Attitudes toward headlines seem to be shaped by the routines that readers are familiar with. If the flying verb or the noun pile looks weird to you, it's probably because you haven't scarfed down half a dozen before breakfast each day for the past 20 years.

The evidence so far is that the up-and-coming wave of news consumers isn't especially bothered by clickbaiting, though there is (hey, it's clickbaiting) This One Weird Trick: Traditional heds do better on error-heavy stories, but clickbait heds do better on well-edited stories. Clickbaiting also seems to be associated with better memory for story details. You don't even want to hear about what the photos do.**

* I'm trying really hard not to say "grownup" and apparently failing.
** Yes, you do. Film at 11.

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Elongated yellow fail

No, no, no. An essential characteristic of a properly constructed Elongated Yellow Fruit is that it's definite. "A popular orange vegetable" might as well be a sweet potato, and "a furry rodent" could just as easily be Alvin the Chipmunk or Squirry the Squirrel or Boris the Undead Rat from the Path Lab. The weather gods do not listen to them. The reference must be at least to "the furry rodent," and for best results, insert an adjective: "the avuncular furry rodent."

Nor is it "a shadow." The groundhog cannot use its little groundhog fingers to make a cute bunny or a horsie or a Dalek. The groundhog needs to see its own shadow. 

Too much space to spend complaining about a post-Groundhog Day brief? Imagine the trouble we'd save if you simply stopped running the damn things.

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Saturday, February 02, 2019

Forget flood. Interview ... no, don't

Often, the best answer to a Stupid Question is "no, but thanks for asking." That won't work in this case, because the problem isn't that the hed is asking a question that the story answers; it's asking a question before which journalism must either stand mute or, you know, break out the tools of the supernatural. And that way lies witch-burning.

Earlier this week, the Christian Broadcasting Network's chief political analyst teed up a question for White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

"Does it kind of blow your mind that someone like Donald Trump, who is sitting in the Oval Office," said CBN's David Brody, "I know you can list the accomplishments, but at the same time just from a spiritual perspective, there are a lot of Christians who believe that for such a time as this ..."


"For such a time as this" is the key phrase in that sentence. It's a quotation from the Bible's Book of Esther, in which an unlikely savior delivers the Jews from persecution.


Sanders picked up on Brody's biblical implication and ran with it.

"I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times," said Sanders, an evangelical Christian herself. "And I think he wanted Donald Trump to become president and that's why he's there."


While Sanders' statement may have raised secular Americans' eyebrows, many white evangelicals likely agree with her. According to a 2017 survey by Public Religion Research Institute, more than half (57%) say God played a "major role" in the 2016 presidential election.


If your eyebrows haven't already been raised by Axis Sarah, it's hard to see why this would get their attention. But you might have also gathered that you're not going to get the interview that the headline promised.

That view is particularly pronounced among charismatic and Pentecostal Christians, a subset of evangelicalism that puts special emphasis on prophecies, believing that God is omnipotent, immanent and extremely active. That is, all-powerful and present in all areas of existence.


The fullest accounting of this view comes in Stephen Strang's book "God and Donald Trump," in which the Pentecostal publisher writes that evangelicals had been praying for deliverance from an overbearing, hostile (and Democratic) federal government.


Trump, Strang says, was the answer to their prayers.
 

... But if a majority of Trump's white evangelical base believes that God wanted him to be president, many other Christians do not agree.

Less than half of non-white Protestants (47%) and fewer than a quarter of white mainline Protestants (21%) and Catholics (22%) say God played a major role in the 2016 election, according to the PRRI survey.


Now we're getting somewhere (not, of course, into answering the Stupid Question), but we're straying off into guesswork to do so. These are questions about what people think God did, not what people think God wanted. Specifically,  about what English-speaking Protestants (with a side of Catholics) think, and that seems a rather narrow view of the interaction of religion and politics.

To some extent, the question of God's role in the 2016 election is impossible to answer. After all, who among us can claim to know the mind of God? 

If you need your religion editor to point out that -- with some qualifications, mind -- we can't entirely answer what God was up to in the 2016 election, you're doing it wrong. (Hell, we can't entirely answer what the Russians were up to, and Russia's on the map.) And quite a few among us feel that life is but a joke claim to know the mind of God. Traditionally, we ask them to buy an ad.

If you want to analyze public opinion, fine. Just keep the emphasis on questions that were actually asked -- and entities that actually pick up the phone.

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