Thursday, April 27, 2017

Moulin rogue

How are things going with that agenda-setting function of mass media today, Fair 'n' Balanced Network? 

It will take military force to stop North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, a majority of voters believe -- and they tend to favor the U.S. taking that action.
That’s according to the latest national Fox News Poll of registered voters.

Fifty-one percent say that U.S. military action will be required to keep the rouge nation from continuing its nuclear weapons program, while 36 percent think diplomacy alone can stop it.

By a 53-39 percent margin, voters favor the U.S. using military force to keep North Korea from making further advancements on nukes.  

The spelling isn't even the most interesting thing here. There's Fox's skills at question design:

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Today in FRAMING!

It's a truism of the sports pages that your SMASHES is my EDGES, and the Wall Street Journal bears that out in the link* that STOCKS SMASH RECORDS takes you to:
U.S. stock indexes edged higher as gains in shares of technology companies offset losses in the energy sector.

Stocks have generally risen in recent sessions, buoyed by corporate-earnings reports pointing to health in U.S. companies.

So -- where are the records?

... The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 6.24 points, or less than 0.1%, to 20981.33 on Thursday. The S&P 500 rose 1.32 point, or less than 0.1%, to 2388.77 and the Nasdaq Composite gained 23.71 points, or 0.4%, to 6048.94, hitting a fresh closing high

In the object-free world of Drudge syntax, BEATS! means "exceeded expectations." Or "Happy Days are Here Again," or something like that. Anyway, one out of three ain't bad. But the real point seems to be that we all know who(m) we have to thank for all the smashing and beating.** That might be interesting once GDP decides to start obeying the business cycle again.

* Yes, the link that says, if you're scoring along at home.
** Though perhaps not for the 10.15% year-to-date increase in the Class A stock of the failing New York Times.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The case of the missing rally

It wouldn't be a "fake news" story if Fox wasn't somehow involved, would it?

President Trump is creeping up in the polls now that foreign policy has seized center stage.

...  It’s hardly surprising that Trump’s approval rating is getting a little better—up six points, to 40 percent, in a new Quinnipiac poll. He launched widely praised airstrikes against Syria over a chemical weapons attack, and used the Mother of All Bombs against ISIS in Afghanistan.

Fox, of course, is hardly the only news outlet to salivate over a phrase like "mother of all bombs." Nor is it the only one to link Trump's recent bellicosity to an improvement in public assessment of his performance; that would be a "rally 'round the flag" effect, of the sort that political scientists have been tracking for decades. What's interesting here is that Fox was only just catching up with the grownup media (at top is the Washington Post, claiming a "small boost in Trump's approval rating" in an April 14 article). And what's really interesting is that the evidence shows no rally effect. This isn't just fake news; it's fake news where there should be real news, and that's news.

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Moose and ... squirrel!

With French civilization hanging over the fire by a thread, an awesome tax-cutting plan getting ready to bring back those jobs, and North Korea threatening to play volleyball at its nuclear development site again, it's good to know the Fair 'n' Balanced Network is not distracted when it comes to Sunday afternoon's top story:

International businessman Carter Page blames the mainstream media and the “corrupt Clinton regime” -- not himself -- for repeatedly saying he was an adviser to the Donald Trump presidential team, according to a letter obtained Sunday by Fox News.

I guess the profundity of it all is clearer if you recall Saturday's No. 2 story:

Donald Trump’s legal team was trying to distance the president from international businessman Carter Page in the aftermath of the 2016 White House race, amid mounting questions about Russia influencing the outcome, according to a letter obtained by Fox News. 

Attorney Don McGahn told Page in a December 2016 letter to “immediately cease” saying he is a Trump adviser and to stop suggesting he was more than a short-lived advisory council member “who never actually met with the president-elect.”  

Why it took four months to "obtain" these earth-shaking letters (or an extra day to get the one that lets you say "corrupt Clinton regime") is a question for the ages. But at least we're making sure the focus is on moose and squirrel, rather than on anything any Russian agents might have done. Anyway, back to Sunday's epic:
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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Slouching toward visual journalism

If you got as far with Thursday's Freep as the jump shown here, you probably knew you were still in a story about refinancing student loans. You might nonetheless have wondered what the huddled masses in the photo had to do with a caption like "Lenders are looking at paychecks and degrees -- not for college dropouts and others struggling to make payments."

The photo appears to be cropped from an AP shot of Feb, 1, appearing at stltoday on March 14 with the caption "In this Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017, file photo, Brooklyn College students walk between classes on campus in New York." Apparently, then, at least they're students; there's no indication whether any of them are carrying student loan debt,* or how much, though the image was used there and elsewhere to illustrate an AP story about student loan debt. It's also shown up at McClatchy, repurposed to illustrate coverage of New York's plan for tuition:
Well, at least Brooklyn's in New York. Hard to see a similar connection between a nearly three-month-old file photo and a large chunk of visual real estate in the healthier of the two Detroit papers, particularly when there's no indication of why we're seeing it.

I wouldn't cast this as fake news -- as photos tend to be, it's evidently true about something -- but it does make a lot of assumptions about the audience's interest in guessing games. If the press's crying need is to demonstrate its relevance, someone seems to have made a singularly dumb choice in illustrations here.

* If they had been, the AP caption would no doubt have read "Students carry loan debt as they walk between classes."

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

This hed's forbidden. Here's why

Yes, it sounds all linky and clicky, but please -- three "here's why" and a "here's what"? Any objections to placing this one on the Forbidden Heds list?

And can it be a reminder of the old days? "Dies after being shot," not "killed after being shot," please. 

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Softest barriers EVAR

Every time I think I have the claim quote figured out, a new one comes along. Here, I think it's the phrasing that gets me. The quote in the linked video is: "He was breaking down barriers that nobody suspected." There's room for "Chuck Berry 'was breaking down barriers'"; if that seems too much more opaque than the current version, there's also room to take the quotes off and add the attribution: "Chuck Berry broke down barriers, Simmons says." The down barriers, though, are going to remain a problem for me.

I expect I have trouble with "over US election hack" because I'm not a native speaker of claim quotes (fair enough; the flying verb seems pretty opaque in British headlinese too). Is "hack" what needs the attribution, or is the "over" part of the contested assertion?

Sorry these are a bit old; trying to clear out the inbox before things get any stranger in the framing of international politics.

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

The death of irony

Q: What could be funnier than hearing Fox News's executive vice president refer to a head of state as a "haircut challenged man-boy"?

A:  Hearing Fox News's executive vice president complain about other news organizations' agenda-setting functions:

The China Daily, which reliably spouts Beijing’s latest thinking, began issuing ominous headlines.

Surely, we live in interesting times.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Today in sourcing

So how's your sourcing on the morning's top story there, Fair 'n' Balanced Network?
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes on Thursday stepped down temporarily from his role leading the committee’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign and possible surveillance of Trump associates by the prior administration.

Nunes in a statement cited the efforts of "several leftwing activist groups" to lodge "entirely false and politically motivated" accusations against him with the Office of Congressional Ethics as his reason for sidelining himself. The House Ethics Committee is set to investigate the allegations against Nunes.

... A source close to Nunes called the alleged Democrat-led campaign to file complaints with the Office of Congressional Ethics a "clever political trick." Even if vindicated -- which Nunes believes he will be -- too much political damage had already been done for Nunes to remain in his role leading the Russia/spying investigations, the source said.

Another congressional staffer agreed with the claim that the complaints were a "coordinated tactic" organized by Democrats, and said the move was made to get the conversation off of Rice. The staffer said the news came on the eve of the Easter recess in order for it to have maximum impact.

You kind of wonder why they weren't standing in line to have their names associated with their comments.