Nov
01
2011

SoundBites

Headline Writing Made Simple

“Diplomatic Efforts Unable to Derail Palestinians’ UN Gambit”

Washington Post headline (9/9/11)

“U.S. Gambit Unable to Derail Palestinian Diplomatic Efforts”

—Not a Washington Post headline, ever

Documents & Disingenuousness

The New York Times (9/3/11) reported that documents found by rebels in Libyan intelligence offices indicated that “the Americans sent terrorism suspects at least eight times for questioning in Libya despite that country’s reputation for torture.” The Times repeated on September 6 that prisoners had been sent to Libya “despite the country’s reputation for torture.” Surely the paper is aware that the countries the CIA shipped prisoners to were chosen because of their reputations for torturing, not despite them.

Bin Laden Never Imagined We’d Fall for It

Al-Qaeda, [Osama] bin Laden, never imagined that the 3,000 people who lost their lives that day would inspire 3 million to put on the uniform and harden the resolve of 300 million Americans. They never imagined the sleeping giant they were about to awaken.

—Vice President Joe Biden at September 11 commemoration (9/11/11)

Actually, that’s precisely what bin Laden imagined: Al-Qaeda’s central strategy was to draw its Western foes into economically ruinous wars in Muslim lands (Extra!, 7/11). But no doubt it would be bad form for journalists to raise this fact as the U.S. commemorated a decade of war and economic decline.

Replace the Nation

Face the Nation senior producer Robert Hendin (CBS.com, 9/21/11) marked 20 years of Bob Schieffer hosting the CBS show by recalling Schieffer’s words when he debuted (5/26/91): “Bob made his plans known. ‘Our aim is to going to be very simple here: to find interesting people from all segments of American life who have something to say and give them a chance to say it,’ he said that morning.”

Then Hendin looked at Scheiffer’s transcript to see “exactly who he’s had on the broadcast.” The tally: “three presidents of the United States, four vice presidents, seven secretaries of state, six secretaries of Defense and 45 different cabinet members. He’s also interviewed 123 senators and 109 different representatives.” Hendin noted that Joe Biden has been on 46 times, and Dick Cheney 16. The No. 1 guest by far: Sen. John McCain, with 76 appearances.

Hendin doesn’t mention when Schieffer gave up on that “all segments of American life” idea, but it must have been early on.

Class Warfare’s Four-Star General

NBC Meet the Press anchor David Gregory (9/25/11) asked of Barack Obama’s tax proposal, “Is the president’s plan basic fairness or class warfare?” And who better to answer than billionaire media mogul and Republican New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg?

After insisting “you can’t define what’s middle class, what is wealthy, what is poor”—maybe everyone seems poor when you’re worth $18 billion?—Bloomberg dismissed Warren Buffett’s call for tax fairness as “just theatrics,” pointing out, “If Warren Buffett made his money from ordinary income rather than capital gains, his tax rate would be a lot higher than his secretary’s.”

That’s a good point—which is exactly why Buffett calls for capital gains and ordinary income to be taxed at the same rate.

Sign of Bias?

When Dick Cheney appeared on the Today show (8/30/11) as part of his book tour, the interview concluded with a shot of the crowd outside the studio, where someone held up a sign from Amnesty International that read, “Torture Is a Crime: Investigate Cheney.” When Cheney appeared on Fox News (9/4/11), host Chris Wallace asked him about this, suggesting NBC wouldn’t have run such a shot “if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama were speaking.... Do you think there is a liberal bias in the mainstream media?” Cheney’s response:

I think there probably is. But I don’t spend time worrying about it. I think those of us right-thinking conservatives find that there are a lot of outlets out there now in the media, on the Internet, that give us ample opportunity for our points of view to get across and to be heard.

If the world’s leading human rights group calls for your investigation for torture, and viewers get a fleeting, accidental glimpse of this at the end of a segment designed to publicize your book, you really ought to be grateful that media are so biased in your favor.

Bogus Sports News, Too

Covering a Chicago Bears football game, Fox Sports (9/11/11) put up “headlines” about Bears quarterback Jay Cutler’s knee problems: “Cutler Leaves With Injury,” “Cutler Lacks Courage,” “Cutler’s No Leader.” Fox’s Daryl Johnston announced, “These are the actual headlines from the local papers in Chicago.”

Some reporters from the Chicago Tribune remembered the press actually being pretty supportive of the injured player, and suspected funny business. After a search of papers all over Illinois turned up no such headlines, Fox Sports admitted they were all made up. “It was misleading,” spokesperson Dan Bell told the Tribune (9/18/11). Or you might just call it Fox-y.

At Last Rich Men Have a Voice

“When Discovery Communications set out to reformat HD Theater, the nine-year-old home of high-definition documentaries, its executives assessed the crowded cable programming landscape and asked what was missing—where there was ‘white space,’ as one later put it.

“What was missing, they decided, was a channel for the Rich Man—the successful, college-educated man who earns $150,000 or more a year and who wants to know how to spend his time and money.

“That’s how Velocity was hatched...billed as a high-end men’s lifestyle channel about fast cars, fancy auctions and football stars.”—New York Times (9/19/11)