Thursday, March 10, 2005


"Author touts property tax relief. Foes call it a sham."

This is the pull quote in the middle of today's SAEN front page. Gee, can you guess what the newspaper's position is on this bill?

Let's parse the words chosen by them for this supposedly objective phrase (I'm assuming an editor selected the pull quote, rather than Ms. Fikac, the writer of the article):

"Author" - in the singular, implies a lonely figure in support of the bill. Authors, of course, are also blinded by love of their creations, unable to see their defects. Why didn't the editor simply use the name of the bill's sponsor, "Grusendorf"?

"Touts" - this is a pejorative term, implying the hypocritical "talking up" of a position without merit. See the dictionary entry: " To solicit customers, votes, or patronage, especially in a brazen way." The unbiased verb would have been "cites".

"Foes" - so, the lone "author" faces a huge swarm of "foes". Funny, since the bill passed, those "foes" were, by definition, a minority. "Foes" also implies some sort of valiant resistance to an unjust bill. The value-neutral term, obviously, would be "opponent".

"Sham" - the article itself fails miserably to substantiate the "sham" charge.

Democrat after Democrat — their party outnumbered 87-63 in the House — spoke against the bill, calling its $3 billion in additional funding inadequate and describing a freshly added teacher pay increase as a sham. The raise was defended as real by its Republican sponsor.
Since the bill increases funding by a whopping $3 billion, surely the onus is on the opponents to explain what they mean by it being a "sham". Why use it in the pull quote, then, just because a partisan opponent of the bill did? Unbiased term: "unfair".

So, to review: biased SAEN pull quote:

"Author touts property tax relief. Foes call it a sham."
Objective pull quote:

"Grusendorf cites property tax relief. Opponents call it unfair"
Don't try to tell us a few extra characters would not have fit, SAEN. Keep this biased verbage out of supposedly objective news articles and in the editorial section where it belongs.
First, it is not a "pull quote" or a "drop quote", but a subhead that you are referring to. And no, the reporter does not write headlines or subheads.
Second, if that is all you can find to complain about in the whole article is the wording of a subhead, well, you might as well just give it up because you're not going to convince anyone not already committed to your side with that kind of nitpicking.
And yes, when it comes to layout and designing the front page, a few extra characters does make a big difference.
Well, Mike, I will certainly defer to your editorial experience for your first point.

But on the second point, you know as well as I that the HEADLINE is what the public sees first, and last, and very often nothing in between. Thus, pointing out bias in a a subhead is not at all picking nits.

And I stand by my critique of the subhead as biased against the bill.

It's quite obvious that the SAEN has an agenda to oppose this bill not only through editorials (which is acceptable), but through purported news articles (which is not).
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