Saturday, July 16, 2022

How to focus your words on the story - more journalism for beginners

 By A.J. Liebling
Meta-Content Generator

If you're writing a news story it can really help you if you figure out what the story is about.  This sure-fire technique is known as “focus.”

To see what happens when you don't focus on the real story, let's take a look at a few recent examples from America's media titans.

Here's one: with climate change accelerating, and Europe boiling alive due to unprecedented heat, the failure of the Democratic plan to do something about our fatal addiction to fossil fuel was important news.  So far, so good.  Here's how it was first reported in The New York Times:

How is it that one Senator can frustrate the will of the President and presumably the entire Senate?  Is that what happened?

Umm, no.

By day two the Times admitted that Maserati Joe didn't do this all by himself.  He had some helpers.  To be more precise, he had 50 of them:

WASHINGTON — President Biden bowed to political realty on Friday, conceding that he had been unable to persuade a holdout coal-state Democrat — and any Republicans in the Senate — to back what had been his greatest hope to confront the climate crisis. 

In the words of Emily Litella, that's different.  The real story is that the entire Republican Party, with as far as we know no exceptions, even from supposed heroes like Liz “Torture Girl” Cheney, has decided to do everything possible to encourage global warming and the ensuing catastrophes. 

Whether this is due to their dependence from coal-dark money from polluting titans like Koch Industries, a bent libertarianism that holds that government has no role in building roofs to protect us from rain, or just blind opposition to anything Democrats propose is ultimately irrelevant.

The key point is that our planet is not threatened solely by some schmuck from West Virginia.  It's an entire political party devoted to destruction of our democracy and our planet.  The word Republican makes a second appearance deep in the story, which portrays the result as another Biden failure.  Not a single Republican is interviewed.  (Was Wilfred M. Romney busy tying his dog to the roof of his car?) Nor is there any discussion of whether their implacable opposition to saving our planet will be a midterm winner or loser.  It's all framed as another Biden/Democratic failure.

By the way, you don't have to take our word for it.  You could ask America's best reporter, Jane Mayer:

Let's turn to another horrifying story from the week's news: the attempt to smear news media for truthfully reporting that a pregnant 10-year-old rape victim had to flee to Indiana to get the abortion she was denied in Ohio.  There are two important points here: one, the horrors inflicted on this child and two, the relentless smear campaign orchestrated by the media arm of the Republican Party, Rupert Murdoch's bent cable channel and business newspaper.

So how did this play?  Let's turn to another supposed lion of modern journalism, The Washington Post:

His focus on the fact that the Indianapolis Star's original account was based on – the statement of the doctor who performed the abortion.  That seems like a pretty reliable source, in the absence of anything that would cast doubt on her credibility, like, we don't know, past service in a Republican Administration.  But not to Ace Fact Checker Glenn Kessler:

With news reports around the globe and now a presidential imprimatur, however, the story has acquired the status of a “fact” no matter its provenance. If a rapist is ever charged, the fact finally would have more solid grounding.

Be like Aloy and focus!

Of course, journalists rely on reliable sole sources every single day.  Or even not so reliable sources, like the police.  Watch your local news tonight and count the times you hear something along the lines of “According to police...”

Kessler didn't find worthy of focus the effort by Murdoch's media to smear the victim, the doctor, and anyone pointing out that the disaster was the entirely foreseeable outcome of the Supreme Court's law-free demolition of the right to safe, legal abortion.  

To be fair to the media, others, including the formidable Erin Gloria Ryan in The Daily Beast, did focus on the real point:

Rather than facing the cruel reality of their ideological position cheerleading no-exceptions abortion bans, members of the conservative media decided collectively that the story couldn’t be real. They set out to prove that the doctor was a liar, and that pro-choice people had made the whole thing up.

From the unhinged ramblings of Just Asking Questions lipstick-toothed bloggers to Fox News primetime to a Wall Street Journal editorial that accused abortion rights proponents of amplifying “an abortion story too good to verify”—the right-wing media septic tank was giddy to prove its point. In their telling, the left was just making shit up and the whole sob story of a pregnant 10-year-old was...a “fanciful” argument meant to make a post-Roe America seem much more barbaric than it actually was.

See how easy it is to focus on what's important? 

By the way, in response to waves of withering criticism of his pisspoor “fact check,” Kessler told his his critics basically LALALALALALALALA:

This is consistent with the proud boasts of other hacks raked over the coals for their hot takes. Here's Megan “Kiddie Suicide Squads” McArdle, who also graces the Post's editorial page:

Once again, Ms. McArdle fails to attain the standard set by the proverbial stopped clock.  If you are being trolled online because you are a woman and/or you express views displeasing to hateful highly-armed white men living in their mom's basements, you are entitled both to legal protection and to enforced moderation by the proprietors of whatever online platform you publish on.

If on the other hand you are being criticized for your pisspoor dangerous views (like claiming that the best answer to gun massacres in schools is to train kiddie suicide squads), the answer, applicable to Megan, Glenn, Kevin Dowd's sister, and other galaxy brains, is to stop publishing garbage and start focusing on what's important.

Try it – it works!

STOP PRESS: At deadline the aforementioned fan of kiddie suicide squads, Megan McCardle, told us we shouldn't worry about pregnant 10-year-olds because lots of times the child rape victim could be as old as 14 and that's not so bad:

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