Thursday, August 14, 2008

Never Again Going to Give The “News” The Benefit of the Doubt by Anthony McCarthy

During this personal hiatus, I’ve been trying to do something about the old writing style. Again. One of the things stressed by those who have thought about the form of effective advocacy is how to place information in a written story for maximum persuasive effect. Not burring the lead idea is high among those. Putting the most important information in the very beginning of the piece is just about universally advocated for written material.

But what about other parts of structuring information to inform? How can you decide when they are doing that and not, in fact, advocating a subjective opinion? And what about the different opportunities and requirements for effective view point promotion on the radio or TV? You can assume a much smaller number of words, to start with, but you probably can count on them all being audible, if not heard. People don’t change the page when listening to the news as opposed to reading the paper.

I got interested in this last week when, during its alleged hard new headlines, I heard a story on NPR that started out to be about Obama’s position on an issue but during which his voice wasn’t heard and none of his words were quoted. However, they did manage to quote McCain and to have a clip of a Republican STATE SENATOR(!) opining on what was alleged to be Obama’s position. You’d think the least they could do was use Obama’s own words or even a position paper, but that was held to be less important in a story about Obama’s stand on an issue than what a Republican State Senator had to say about it.

Funny, once you notice it, you hear that kind of clear bias practice all over the place. Characterizations of Obama’s positions are given, motives ascribed to him based on those characterizations, even alleged campaign strategies “reported” (without verification from the campaign) but the actual quotes and voices are those of Republicans. And, mind you, this is in the alleged reporting sections of alleged news programs, not the vastly longer time given to “analysis” during which are mired all manner of speculation and dispund. Hey, if the venerable NPR gets away with that kind of practice, why should the seamier organs of the media be expected to remain chaste?

And yet they wonder why people are abandoning the traditional news in favor of online sources. At least people on the blogs don’t pretend to be practicing objective reporting while they are advocating a side, certainly not pretending it’s news. At least not in such large numbers.

They want people to trust them, they can cut this kind of crap to start with.