It’s dismaying to read so many comments by hyper-smart people, some of them specialists in analyzing the news media, criticizing, even screaming over, how news media report…the news.
Headlines are a particular source of their irritation. Given the very few words a headline can squeeze in, why are so many people angry at them, furious that pejoratives can appear in a headline? Especially pejoratives which suggests the Democratic Party is in “disarray,” or some similar word.
Even if you don’t define “disarray” in a way that characterizes a moment in the lively debate which occurs in our only working political party — clearly, I do not — why are you so upset? If you read the article fully, you’ll find the factual news for which you’re reading the paper and you can mentally discard “disarray.”
Heightened language is used in headlines to…get your attention and prick you to read the article. I’ve always thought this was the purpose of a headline.
Once you get past the headline, a news article gives you the facts. Yes, each reporter uses his/her own language to bring the facts to life. But the facts are the facts and they are in there, in the article, no matter how they are tinted.
Another thing. It feels stupid to type this but…opinion pieces are not news articles.
Newspapers like the Times present an array of opinion pieces, from an array of opinions. One opinion piece yesterday in the Times made me furious because it demonstrated clear political bias without any intelligent logic to support it. What I did with that piece is what I always do: I read the readers’ comments; they soothed my soul by ripping into the lack of intelligent rationale in the opinion piece. I love my fellow Times readers.
Another major gripe about the Times is their penchant for sending reporters to — lots of mockery about this — diners in Dayton, Ohio to interview MAGA supporters. I read those articles and am struck, over and over, by how ignorant, how dim those people are. And I want to know this. Haven’t all of us over the past years asked ourselves, and maybe some of our relatives and friends, “Why? Why do you support this? How the fuck could you vote for this shit?” Well, thanks to the Times, we now know.
Do you want not to know? Why?
So the central question is, why do people I otherwise respect send up alarms about major news media, about their reporting, about their language? You can’t be afraid that the likes of, say, Christopher Caldwell, will warp my mind into thinking the Ukrainian War is the fault of the United States? Do you think I’ll stop voting for people whose values replicate mine?
No. Instead I’ll be influenced by Helene Cooper’s headlined, front page story, “Russian Military Is Repeating Mistakes in Eastern Ukraine, U.S. Says.”
There is not one suggestive headline, one news article, one enraging opinion piece that has changed my own intellectual, deeply considered positions about what’s been going on in our lives and on our planet.
So if you’re not warning and advising me about reading the news, who are you talking to?