Monday, September 23, 2013

These NYT Headlines Epitomize Everything Wrong with "He Said/She Said" Journalism

This morning, when reading the New York Times email digest, two headlines particularly irked me. Both happened to be in the Politics section and embodied the pseudo-objectivity sought by the "process media." In their attempts to eschew "ideology" or "normative judgment" to avoid criticism of partisan bias, such media outlets resort to discussions of theatrics over substance and inject their own normative frame by bestowing equal validity on all claims.

The first headline was "Lawmakers Point Fingers Over Budget Deadlock" by Michael Schwirtz. Here's the lede that appeared in the digest:
With days left to avert a possible government shutdown, Congressional leaders from both parties on Sunday passed around blame and resorted to name-calling.
You see, both sides are equally at fault here. And they have resorted to "name-calling" and a "blame game"! Aren't our Congresspersons such petulant children? Can you believe what brats the Senate Democrats are for not wanting to defund the implementation of the signature health care law of the Democratic president's first term? 

The "name-calling" will not affect the public. The policy preferences advanced by both parties does. However, if you acknowledge that the House Republicans are being "mean-spirited class warriors," then you're just being shrill.

The other headline was "Ad Campaigns Compete as Health Law Rollout Looms," for an article by Michael D. Shear. Here's the lede from the digest:
As the Obama administration prepares to put the health care law in place, it faces an aggressive Republican campaign to prevent its success.
Notice how the headline places the campaigns on an equal normative playing field. They are rivals "competing" with each other. The headline does not imply that the Republicans are trying to obstruct the implementation of a democratically passed law and are shamelessly trying to persuade young people not to purchase health insurance. 

The one sentence summary is a step up from the headline, but it fails to convey how brazen and hypocritical the Republicans are in this matter. People with the best insurance money can buy are trying to persuade others from getting health insurance---after, of course, they long opposed any efforts at making insurance genuinely universal.

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