Wednesday, November 30, 2016


The baby names are back! It kind of pains me to acknowledge that I've been writing about the damn baby names since before the dissertation was finished, but at this point, it'd be ungrateful to deny the value of deranged racist paranoia to the overall scholarly project. And this time, Drudge seems to be committing a couple of basic violations of the way news works. 

First, for you junior-league players, is the axiom that heds are drawn from the lede: If the reporter made something a priority, the hed writer either follows in train or -- should the reporter have somehow* missed the point -- fixes the lede so it reflects the real news. Thus, if you link to the Mirror, which kicks off with Posh and Becks:
Celebrities continue to be a source of inspiration for new parents choosing names for their children.

Coleen and Wayne Rooney's name choices have been extremely popular this year, with twice as many babies called Kit and Klay compared to last year.

But Olivia is officially the most popular name for girls and Oliver the most popular for boys.

... your job is to capture at least some of the Roonsian magic.

More importantly, though, your hed needs to reflect the news itself.  In that Muhammad has been sneaking up on Jack (or Oliver) for years on end, your hed really ought to tell the audience how today is different from yesterday. "Muhammad in second" might have been a big deal when he was closing in, but -- unless the tables are fabricated -- the real story here seems to be that Muhammad has been knocked out of the top spot.

You'd think that might be cause for dancing in the street for Drudge and his ilk. Perhaps he's still trying to figure out how to give credit to his tangerine master.

* Shock horror outrage

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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Order word matters

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Space is limited, and it doesn't always lie in the configuration we wanted, and there's not an "error" here -- but if I had to call this one, I'd say Castro should be filed under Cuban revolutionary, not revolutionary Cuban.

And for those moments when "Due to an editing error ..." isn't enough:

An article on Monday about a rally to protest anti-Semitic, pro-Trump graffiti found in a Brooklyn Heights playground misidentified one of the songs protesters sang. It was “This Land Is Your Land,” not “America the Beautiful.”

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Don't let it fall on me

Q: Is it possible that the drooler media are irredeemably racist?
A: Why, did someone suggest that the drooler media were redeemable?
 (Top, 2016; bottom, 2015. Guess the occasion!)

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Today in snowflakery

And what special snowflake's hurt feelings brought about Saturday morning's top story at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network?

President-elect Donald Trump on Saturday said the cast of the hit Broadway show “Hamilton” was “rude” to White House teammate Mike Pence and that he deserves an apology for being “harassed.”

“Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!” Trump tweeted.

The ticket that campaigned against the scourge of political correctness needs to clutch its teddy bear a little tighter. Gov. Pence was not "harassed." He was addressed as "sir," not "you chinky-ass bitch," and he was not told to return to the land his grandfather immigrated from.* But we do have a better idea about what the president-elect meant when he promised to "open up those libel laws": sedition and seditious libel!

Seditious libel is the kind we thought we got rid of 200 years ago,** in which hurting the feelings of the authorities is bad in and of itself: "The intentional publication, without lawful excuse or justification, of written blame of any public man, or of the law, or of any institution established by law." Rather than being a defense, truth is an aggravating factor. Nelson (1959), from which the preceding definition is taken, raises a question that's particularly relevant to Fox: "Would it have been wise, under these concepts, to suggest that Governor William Cosby*** spent too much time on the golf course?"
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Friday, November 18, 2016

Trump makes sun rise in East

There was certainly good news this morning, Mr. and Mrs. America: Guess which cowardly automaker backed down in the wake of the radiant one's victory? (The flag is a lovely touch; Drudge has used it before on stories that were, um, completely false, but what's a little framing among friends?)

As almost everyone has already pointed out, no. The image isn't technically a lie -- Ford is, after all, staying -- but does qualify as cask-strength bullshit, in that Ford had never planned to leave. It had apparently been considering sending production of one SUV to Mexico so it could make more of one that sold better at the current plant. As the Reuters update puts it:

So were Trump’s tweets that there would be “no Mexico” because he “worked hard with Bill Ford to keep the Lincoln plant in Kentucky” misleading?

“I’ll let each individual reach their own conclusions, but the true answer should be clear to anyone,” Dunn [the UAW oficial mentioned earlier] said in an interview. “What is important is the transparency between Ford Motor Co. and the UAW. We’re doing a good job and that wasn’t decided in an overnight tweet.”

Which is really no nevermind when America has been made great again, right? You can see the theme developing from Wednesday:
As even the the truck farm of quantitative disinformation that is ZeroHedge points out, yes and no. The strong dollar is not a universal sign of greatness.

The concern about "fake news" on Facebook is amusing but, in the long run, pretty trivial. The open dishonesty of the new regime's favorite "real news" sites, on the other hand, is going to be a challenge.

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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Ice Krispies

Even if you're the Nation's Newspaper of Record, isn't it kind of customary to look at the food sometime during the meal?

An entry in the “This and That” feature on Page 40 this weekend about the increasing popularity of regional Japanese fare in America misstates one way in which an udon-noodle dish is served at TsuruTonTan. The noodles are served over a bed of ice, not a bed of rice.

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Friday, November 11, 2016

Did you hear the one about ...

Let's have a look at how far out of the gate a lie can get while the truth is still fumbling to get its pants on:

Facebook’s struggles with ‘fake news’ underscore the urgent need for a new social media legal framework, experts warn.

“It’s an enormous problem,” Keith Altman, a lawyer at 1-800 Law Firm, told “It’s the distribution, the infrastructure of these sites that allow the misinformation to be disseminated.”

So much bullshit, so little time! From a discourse analysis perspective, we might wonder about correctness conditions: Whom* does "concern" have to be "raised" among for the claim to fit in a standard subject-verb-object news hed? "Thousands flee Godzilla" or "Quake kills hundreds" wouldn't require that kind of analysis. Nor would "Series thrills Cubs fans," but "Series brings joy" is a different matter. All of a sudden, you need another object ("among Cubs fans") to avoid violating an objectivity norm. Fox** isn't telling us where it stands with regard to Facebook's liberal skulduggery, but it is telling us how we can tell where it stands.

Like the lede, the inside hed goes to that point more directly:
That's a nice bit of question-begging that helps the lie stay ahead of the game. Note the advance over Friday morning's take on the story:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended the social media network’s news algorithm Thursday after accusations that the company allowed “fake news” to tilt the election.

“Personally I think the idea that fake news on Facebook—of which it’s a very small amount of the content—influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea,” Zuckerberg said at conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

As the day wears on and the story shifts from a generic "" credit to a staff byline, we've gone from "accusations" of fake news to "Facebook's struggles with 'fake news.'" Nicely played, Fair 'n' Balanced Network!

"Experts say" is another standard objectivity routine. Attributing the opinion displaces its evaluative function from the news organization to the source; if the referee is looking, Fox still has the pivot foot planted on the floor. It'd be rude -- though it's (ahem) kind of a standard thing to teach in journalism classes --to ask: How many experts, and how expert are they in what? Back to the videotape with the afternoon version as it recaps the story-in-progress:
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Tuesday, November 08, 2016

The death of irony

Yes, they really do think like this.

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Monday, November 07, 2016

Wandering comma of the month

No doubt it's busy days at The Washington Times, but -- do you suppose that first comma in the second graf might want to go before "with Washington"? Just so we know who's fighting with whom and what's being dragged into which?

Alas, it's fixed -- after a fashion -- online:

Five months later that Libyan offensive has stalled amid heavy urban fighting with Washington finding itself being dragged further into the conflict, a development that analysts claim will loom large over the Iraqi-led offensive to take Mosulfrom the Islamist terror group, also known as ISIS and ISIL.

Just a reminder that you can't save the world if the world can't tell what you're doing to save it.

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Saturday, November 05, 2016

Nonelongated nonyellow fruit

If you have to run (what amounts to) a free ad at the top of an inside page for a real estate agent, could you at least leave out the ...

Kid Rock’s ancestral seat includes a 5,628-square-foot house (that has a 1,811-square-foot lower level) with indoor Jacuzzi room and a giant fireplace, as well as a large guest house, two garages that accommodate a total of five cars, and the apple orchard where Kid Rock has told biographers he once picked the red fruit.

Or, failing that, attend to the parallel structure?

The four-bedroom, four-bath, neo-Georgian colonial house is steps away from a private stable with two horse stalls and a tack room, a tennis court, and the estate sports the name “Apple Crest Farm,” [your name here] said.

As long as we've decided to give over covering the news (and stuff like getting sportsball events into the paper the day after they happen), could we at least tidy up in the toy department a little?

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Friday, November 04, 2016

On making stuff up

Stop press! Media malfeasance! Surely that rates some Drudge sirens, or even a BIAS ALERT at Fox?

Fox News anchor Bret Baier apologized on Friday for reporting that federal investigators had determined that Hillary Clinton’s private email server had been hacked and that an investigation would lead to an indictment of Clinton after the election.

In fact, Baier said, after checking with his sources, there is no evidence at this time for either statement.

Oh, wait. That's the Washington Post. But there has to be some skulduggery by the lamestream media over at Fox!

No, not that. I mean, some indication that a couple of bogus stories that (ahem) anybody would be proud to lead the page with in the week before a national election were actually made up. Let's search and see what happens:

Some clarification, and some standing by, but otherwise, the wholesale fabrication of campaign news* is as invisible as -- oh, say, a monthly BLS report indicating that the expansion of nonfarm payroll jobs is continuing apace.

Any questions?

* "Knowledge of probable falsity or reckless disregard ..." damn, it's on the tip of my tongue.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

My hovercraft is full of eels

How are those Rosetta Stone lessons going, Nation's Newspaper of Record?

An article on Oct. 3 about the defeat of a referendum in Colombia on a peace deal between the government and its largest rebel group mistranslated a comment on Twitter by former President Álvaro Uribe. He wrote, “Peace is exciting, the Havana agreement disappointing,” not “Peace is an illusion, the Havana agreement deceptive.” The article also misstated, in some editions, the surname of a Colombian novelist who voted for the deal and the surname of a music teacher who voted against the deal. The novelist is Juan Gabriel Vásquez, not Velásquez, and the music teacher is Roosevelt Pulgarin, not Pulgarib.

Everybody who's run across the basic agenda-setting proposition has heard the summary that McCombs and Shaw borrowed from Bernard Cohen's The Press and Foreign Policy: "The press ... may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about." Cohen's next line is worth attention as well: "And it follows from this that the world looks different to different people, depending not only on their personal interests, but also on the map that is drawn for them by the writers, editors, and publishers of the papers they read."

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Wednesday, November 02, 2016

One man's terrorist ...

Odd, it didn't take this story very long to fall right off the old issue-salience agenda at (ahem) some networks:

Authorities in Iowa have captured the suspected gunman in the ambush-style attacks early Wednesday morning that claimed the lives of two police officers who were sitting in their patrol cars.

Sounds like it's still a pretty big deal, right? And one that merits a particularly Fox-type headline?
 Let's see what light the sidebars might shed. There's one from Oct. 14:

Hours after five Dallas police officers were killed by sniper fire during a July protest over police aggression, a call reporting a break-in at an apartment came in to the Valdosta Police Department in Georgia.

... It was just one example in a growing number of police officer ambushes across the country in recent months.

... and another from Oct. 9:

If you want to see the face of violence, rage, and hopelessness in America today, take a good look inside our failing inner cities and the desperate people who are struggling to survive. Start with Chicago. 

... Public bashing of our police has become so politically convenient, we now have to listen to vapid Hollywood elites and pampered millionaire athletes offer their shallow commentary.  ...Our president does the nation no service when he announces how he can empathize with Kaepernick’s plight.

So you can see the disappointment at Fox when the suspect is white identified:
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