Sunday, July 16, 2006

Stamp out News 2 Use

It's impossible to tell from here whether this is a sign of bad things to come under McClatchy or just a flashback to K-R's general sloppiness with international issues. Informed observations shedding light on that issue would be welcome. But meanwhile, somebody ought to be embarrassed:

Conflict affects U.S. gas prices
Investors fear violence in Mideast will spread to areas where the oil is
McClatchy Newspapers
Q. Israel and its neighbors are fighting again. Why should Americans care?
The most obvious reason is the economy. The latest fighting, which began when militants in Lebanon took two Israeli soldiers hostage on Wednesday, already has driven global oil prices to record highs, and they're likely to go even higher. That could kick the U.S. economy, and the world's, into a recession.

Let's try to get this straight. One of the responsibilities of being a grown-up newspaper is reminding people that there is more to life than the cost of filling their SUVs. Some of your readers might perceive a personal or cultural connection to the areas in question. Others might consider this edge of the Med to be a particularly relevant crossroads of world politics and a likely influence on events elsewhere. Still others might simply think it's important for adults to have some basic stock of information about human events beyond the price of gasoline.

Maybe this is merely mislabeled -- it's not "why should Americans care" but "what's the impact on energy prices." Honesty in packaging would be a start, but only a start. We'd have to sketch out the bridge from week-on-week oil prices to global recession, for example. That means explaining how long prices would have to remain at some level X before the effects took hold. And it probably also means explaining why you consider some actions more likely than others:

Q. What would happen if Israel attacked the Hezbollah office or other targets in Syria?
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said last week that his country would retaliate against any Israeli attack on Syria, though he didn't say how. The sinking of a tanker in the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf or an attack on other oil-related targets would send oil and gasoline prices still higher. That alone could cause a global recession.

Sure could, but you seem to have left out something important: Who is it that would be sinking the aforesaid tanker -- the Iranians? And they'd consider that move to be in their interests for exactly what reasons again?

There are plenty of places in the paper to play Consumer Watchdog. There are fewer all the time to play Distributor of News. Let's try to do a bit better at keeping the two apart.


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