Sunday, May 21, 2017

No school is an island

Any correction diminishes me, but some diminish me less than others:

The Living In column last Sunday, about East Hills, N.Y., referred imprecisely to one of the high schools that East Hills students attend. The Wheatley School is a secondary school in the East Williston Union Free School District; Wheatley is not a district unto itself.

Thank you, Nation's Newspaper of Record.

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

A red, white and blue streamers

What a long day it's been for the Fair 'n' Balanced Network! Let's just enjoy the evening ledeall on Massster's foreign adventures. Text is verbatim, with occasional highlighting for the curious.

President Trump on Saturday began his first overseas trip as president with a stop in Saudi Arabia, calling the visit a “tremendous day” and pledging to work with leader King Salman to bring peace to the Gulf region and forge stronger economic ties, in large part through a roughly $10 billion arms deal.*

“That was a tremendous day,” Trump said shortly after signing the arm deal. “Tremendous investments in the United States. Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs."

The arms deal is part of large, $350 billion economic packages between the ally nations.

Trump and first lady Melania Trump were greeting in Saudi Arabia at the airport by 81-year King Salman, in a red carpet ceremony that also included a military flyover in which several jets left a red, white and blue streamers.

Trump called his visit to Saudi Arabia "a great honor" joined the king in a brief coffee ceremony at the airport terminal before heading to his hotel and the official events of the day.

After signing the deal in Riyadh and talking with top Saudi leaders, Trump and the first lady are scheduled to participate in a royal banquet dinner and a museum tour at the Murabba Palace in Riyadh.

Trump is also scheduled to make a major speech Sunday in which he’s expected to show support for America’s Persian Gulf allies, a likely reset after months of talk about Muslim extremism.**

The next stop in the president’s nine-day trip will be Israel, where he will have an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican,*** then meet with allies at a NATO summit in Brussels and the Group of 7 wealthy nations in Sicily.

“Great to be in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,” Trump tweeted upon landing in Saudi Arabia aboard Air Force One. “Looking forward to the afternoon and evening ahead.”

The first lady wore a black pantsuit with a golden belt and did not cover her head for the arrival, consistent with custom for foreign dignitaries visiting Saudi Arabia.

Trump shook hands with the king, compared to**** then-President Barack Obama in 2009 appearing to bow before then King Abdullah, a move some viewed as a sign of American weakness.

Trump, during his winning presidential campaign and in the first several months of his presidency, has argued that the United States can no longer be the world’s police officer and that other nations must become more self-sufficient in efforts to combat such terror networks as al Qaeda and the Islamic State and in protecting themselves against rogue nations like Iran and North Korea.

After two days of meetings in Riyadh, Trump will travel to Israel where he’ll have an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican,***** then meet with allies at a NATO summit in Brussels and the Group of 7 wealthy nations in Sicily.

The multi-billion dollar arms deal “in the clearest terms possible” shows the United States’ commitment to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf partners and expands economic opportunities, the White House said.

The deal will include tanks, combat ships, missile defense systems, radar and communications and cybersecurity technology. And it will support tens-of-thousands of new jobs in the U.S. defense industrial base, the White House said.

Trump did not address the cameras. But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Saudi Foreign Minister Abdel al Jubeir held a joint press conference.

Jubeir said Trump "certainly has the vision and, we believe, strength to bring about Middle East peace.”

He also called the Trump’s trip a “truly historic visit.”

Said Tillerson: “We’re very proud of this relationship we're embarking on.”
He also took a question about a recent news report about somebody within the White House being a person of interest amid ongoing investigations into whether Trump and his associates colluded with Russia to help Trump win the 2016 presidential race.

Tillerson said he had “no knowledge” about such a person of interest.******

White House officials hope the trip gives Trump the opportunity to recalibrate after one of the most difficult stretches of his young presidency. The White House badly bungled the president's stunning firing of FBI Director James Comey, who was overseeing the federal government’s investigation into possible Russia collusion. 

Trump on Sunday will also hold meetings with more than 50 Arab and Muslim leaders converging on Riyadh for a regional summit focused largely on combating the Islamic State and other extremist groups.

Still, the centerpiece of Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia will likely be the speech Sunday at the Arab-Islamic-American summit.

White House aides view the address as a counter to Obama's 2009 speech to the Muslim world, which Trump criticized as too apologetic for U.S. actions in the region.

Trump will call for unity in the fight against radicalism in the Muslim world, casting the challenge as a "battle between good and evil" and urging Arab leaders to "drive out the terrorists from your places of worship," according to a draft of the speech obtained by The Associated Press. The draft notably refrains from mentioning democracy and human rights — topics Arab leaders often view as U.S. moralizing — in favor of the more limited goals of peace and stability.

It also abandons some of the harsh anti-Muslim rhetoric that defined Trump's presidential campaign and does not contain the words "radical Islamic terror," a phrase Trump repeatedly criticized Hillary Clinton for not using during last year's campaign.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

* $110 billion elsewhere at Fox, but who's counting?
** "Likely"
*** Are we leading with the earthquake? 
**** "Compared to" 
***** It actually doesn't get better when you leave out the comma 
****** Stop press! 

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Nice Massster!

They really know how to write a lede over at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network, don't they?

President Trump tweeted soon after arriving to Saudi Arabia Saturday morning to kick off a nine-day international tour that will also take him to Israel and Europe.

“Great to be in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,” he tweeted, his first on international soil as president. “Looking forward to the afternoon and evening ahead.”

Enough drama. Let's have some historical context:

Trump is the only American president to visit Saudi Arabia, or any Muslim-majority country. The decision comes as he looks to show respect to the region after months of harsh anti-Muslim rhetoric that has surrounded his administration.

Weird, isn't it? Even if no one covering the Most Awesomest State Visit in History had ever heard of FDR* or any president (except Truman) since, you'd think someone might have read ahead:

... Melania Trump wore a black pantsuit with a golden belt and did not cover her head for the arrival, consistent with custom for foreign dignitaries visiting Saudi Arabia. In 2015, her husband had, in a tweet, criticized former first lady Michelle Obama for not wearing a headscarf during a visit to the kingdom.

Hold that thought, because there's a lot more Obama in the works, and admire the rest of a nearly perfect Fox front page. George Soros is funding treason again! North Korea GAAAAAAAAH! Liberals have no respect for Massster! Could it possibly get any better? Fortunately, Fox was hard at work helping you understand the day's events:
"No Bending Over" is pretty easy to follow, though the deck -- "Unlike Obama, Trump shakes Saudi king's hand" -- is a little bizarre, given that the picture actually shows Obama shaking the king's hand. But the point is clear: America is great again!

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Maj. Houlihan, call your office

It pains me to think that "gets shot" heds have been showing up here for nearly a dozen years now. Please stop. Think of the children.

And while we're at it, dear friends downtown:

If your first response is "then why is he running?" -- congratulations, I think. I'm not sure how we got that particular hed out of this:

... The reality show we’ve been watching — "Celebrity Apprentice: White House Battle” — requires the attention of all Democrats and Independents in Washington.

“I’ve got to stay and fight,” he said. “After (Trump) was elected, I knew it would change the way I looked at my job. I knew that it would potentially interfere with (a gubernatorial run). But what he represents beyond ideology is the lack of respect he has for democratic institutions like an independent judiciary and a free and independent media. He represents such a threat that it changed my thinking.”

Where does that leave Michigan? Stories about the governor’s race were ready to write themselves: Kildee and Flint versus any and every GOP leader currently in office who watched and did nothing while Flint residents drank and bathed in lead-tainted water for years.


But here’s the thing: The governor’s race still should be about Flint. Not just Flint. From now on, anyone seeking to represent any town, city, state or nation must know that they will not be allowed to ignore constituents just because they aren't rich or CEOs.

... but I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time. On general, if you talk about what people are doing, rather than what they're not doing, you'll find it easier to write a hed that's understood first thing in the morning.

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Knights in white satin

How are things in popular culture today, Nation's Newspaper of Record?

An article last Sunday about different film stars’ audition experiences misspelled part of the title of the coming “Transformers” film. It is “Transformers: The Last Knight,” not “The Last Night.”

Yes, but what about the kind that has books in it?

Because of a transcription error, an article on April 30 about a new Netflix series based on “Anne of Green Gables” included an incorrect word in dialogue from the series. The character Anne Shirley says, “Shouldn’t we hold hands over a running stream and pledge ourselves to each other as Cuthberts forever, or prick our fingers and mingle our blood as a symbol of our lasting devotion?” The character does not say “break our fingers.”

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Saturday, May 06, 2017

The name's Mistakenly. Troops Mistakenly

Your assignment: Write the hed.

Somalia's security forces have shot dead a 31-year-old government minister after mistaking him for a militant Islamist, officials have said.

If you haven't seen it yet, here's the authoritative Ten Minutes Past Deadline on the nature and function of the claim quote: "Not an actual quote, but an allegation in reported speech placed within quotation marks to signal its contested nature." In my optimistic moments, having learned how to order OK at the neighborhood pubs, I'd like to think that I could turn out a few claim-quote heds that would pass for the real thing. And then I run across something "'Troops mistakenly' kill .." and realize how far I am from fluency.

I could see "mistakenly kill" as the contested allegation, but I can't see how "troops" is suspect in a way that "minister" wouldn't be. British friends, help: Is this one in bounds?

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Moulin rogue

How are things going with that agenda-setting function of mass media today, Fair 'n' Balanced Network? 

It will take military force to stop North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, a majority of voters believe -- and they tend to favor the U.S. taking that action.
That’s according to the latest national Fox News Poll of registered voters.

Fifty-one percent say that U.S. military action will be required to keep the rouge nation from continuing its nuclear weapons program, while 36 percent think diplomacy alone can stop it.

By a 53-39 percent margin, voters favor the U.S. using military force to keep North Korea from making further advancements on nukes.  

The spelling isn't even the most interesting thing here. There's Fox's skills at question design:

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Today in FRAMING!

It's a truism of the sports pages that your SMASHES is my EDGES, and the Wall Street Journal bears that out in the link* that STOCKS SMASH RECORDS takes you to:
U.S. stock indexes edged higher as gains in shares of technology companies offset losses in the energy sector.

Stocks have generally risen in recent sessions, buoyed by corporate-earnings reports pointing to health in U.S. companies.

So -- where are the records?

... The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 6.24 points, or less than 0.1%, to 20981.33 on Thursday. The S&P 500 rose 1.32 point, or less than 0.1%, to 2388.77 and the Nasdaq Composite gained 23.71 points, or 0.4%, to 6048.94, hitting a fresh closing high

In the object-free world of Drudge syntax, BEATS! means "exceeded expectations." Or "Happy Days are Here Again," or something like that. Anyway, one out of three ain't bad. But the real point seems to be that we all know who(m) we have to thank for all the smashing and beating.** That might be interesting once GDP decides to start obeying the business cycle again.

* Yes, the link that says, if you're scoring along at home.
** Though perhaps not for the 10.15% year-to-date increase in the Class A stock of the failing New York Times.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The case of the missing rally

It wouldn't be a "fake news" story if Fox wasn't somehow involved, would it?

President Trump is creeping up in the polls now that foreign policy has seized center stage.

...  It’s hardly surprising that Trump’s approval rating is getting a little better—up six points, to 40 percent, in a new Quinnipiac poll. He launched widely praised airstrikes against Syria over a chemical weapons attack, and used the Mother of All Bombs against ISIS in Afghanistan.

Fox, of course, is hardly the only news outlet to salivate over a phrase like "mother of all bombs." Nor is it the only one to link Trump's recent bellicosity to an improvement in public assessment of his performance; that would be a "rally 'round the flag" effect, of the sort that political scientists have been tracking for decades. What's interesting here is that Fox was only just catching up with the grownup media (at top is the Washington Post, claiming a "small boost in Trump's approval rating" in an April 14 article). And what's really interesting is that the evidence shows no rally effect. This isn't just fake news; it's fake news where there should be real news, and that's news.

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Moose and ... squirrel!

With French civilization hanging over the fire by a thread, an awesome tax-cutting plan getting ready to bring back those jobs, and North Korea threatening to play volleyball at its nuclear development site again, it's good to know the Fair 'n' Balanced Network is not distracted when it comes to Sunday afternoon's top story:

International businessman Carter Page blames the mainstream media and the “corrupt Clinton regime” -- not himself -- for repeatedly saying he was an adviser to the Donald Trump presidential team, according to a letter obtained Sunday by Fox News.

I guess the profundity of it all is clearer if you recall Saturday's No. 2 story:

Donald Trump’s legal team was trying to distance the president from international businessman Carter Page in the aftermath of the 2016 White House race, amid mounting questions about Russia influencing the outcome, according to a letter obtained by Fox News. 

Attorney Don McGahn told Page in a December 2016 letter to “immediately cease” saying he is a Trump adviser and to stop suggesting he was more than a short-lived advisory council member “who never actually met with the president-elect.”  

Why it took four months to "obtain" these earth-shaking letters (or an extra day to get the one that lets you say "corrupt Clinton regime") is a question for the ages. But at least we're making sure the focus is on moose and squirrel, rather than on anything any Russian agents might have done. Anyway, back to Sunday's epic:
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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Slouching toward visual journalism

If you got as far with Thursday's Freep as the jump shown here, you probably knew you were still in a story about refinancing student loans. You might nonetheless have wondered what the huddled masses in the photo had to do with a caption like "Lenders are looking at paychecks and degrees -- not for college dropouts and others struggling to make payments."

The photo appears to be cropped from an AP shot of Feb, 1, appearing at stltoday on March 14 with the caption "In this Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017, file photo, Brooklyn College students walk between classes on campus in New York." Apparently, then, at least they're students; there's no indication whether any of them are carrying student loan debt,* or how much, though the image was used there and elsewhere to illustrate an AP story about student loan debt. It's also shown up at McClatchy, repurposed to illustrate coverage of New York's plan for tuition:
Well, at least Brooklyn's in New York. Hard to see a similar connection between a nearly three-month-old file photo and a large chunk of visual real estate in the healthier of the two Detroit papers, particularly when there's no indication of why we're seeing it.

I wouldn't cast this as fake news -- as photos tend to be, it's evidently true about something -- but it does make a lot of assumptions about the audience's interest in guessing games. If the press's crying need is to demonstrate its relevance, someone seems to have made a singularly dumb choice in illustrations here.

* If they had been, the AP caption would no doubt have read "Students carry loan debt as they walk between classes."

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