Sunday, August 21, 2005

Sunday morning with the nupes

Ah, a quiet Sunday morning with a pile of newly minted journalism:

Buses keep up with fuel prices?

Would somebody at a certain southeastern daily addicted to this sort of hed please take a whack at explaining what it's supposed to mean? And what language it was meant to be in? Thanks ever so much.

Files portray Roberts in 1980s
The nominee backed stripping the court's school-prayer powers

Here's what the story says:
"His opinion was that Congress had the constitutional power to strip the high court of jurisdiction over school prayer. But he said it was 'bad policy and should be opposed.'"

I suppose you could contend that the antecedent of "it" is vague: "jurisdiction over school prayer" (meaning the deck hed is true) or the whole clause beginning with "that" (meaning it's false)? The "but" suggests the latter, and fuller versions of the quote appearing over the past month make the point rather clearly: "such bills were bad policy and should be opposed on policy grounds." BZZZZZZZZZZZZT. The hed's not true.

The trouble with blunders like this is that they leave us with uncomfortably little to say should a caller ask why we run false and inflammatory headlines about Republican judicial nominees. Do we say "Curses! Our liberal bias has been exposed"? Or do we say "No, we put false, inflammatory headlines on stories without regard to the nominee's political views"?

Gaza pullout puts pressure on Palestine

Palestine must confront terrorists, push for peace

And where is this "Palestine" upon which a Midwestern city's top morning daily has conferred statehood?

OK, granted, some news organizations (the Economist for one, if I'm not mistaken) use "Palestine" as a shorthand for "the nascent government that exercises varying degrees of control over some noncontiguous parts of what might eventually be a Palestinian state." Usually they've covered the issue for a long time, know how to ground such a style decision in precedent and enforce it with some consistency. That's fine. News organizations are sovereign on their own pages. But it's a bad style decision when it's executed out of carelessness or sloppiness.

Broken-record-time sermon again: If you don't understand why the distinction between a state and a state of mind is important, you're going to have a hard time writing passable heds about the Middle East problem.


Blogger Young Writers at Kenyon said...

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5:25 PM, August 21, 2005  

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