The Distortion Habit

March 23rd, 2010 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

By Arthur Alpert

I don’t know much about astrology, but I read once that Aries like me hate details or can’t deal with them. Deciders at the Albuquerque Journal don‘t suffer from my defect. Not content with big, front-page distortions and big omissions, the partisans in power habitually impose tiny tweaks to further their cause.

Take, for example, the headline on liberal E.J. Dionne Jr.’s column celebrating President Obama’s victory on health care today (Tuesday, March 23).

The headline ignored Dionne’s lead, “Yes, we did.” It skipped past his next point (Washington has changed), his next (Congress is capable of fundamental social reform) and his next (Democrats can govern) and, in fact, ignored almost the entire piece – 14 paragraphs worth.

But three paragraphs from the end, Dionne arrived at partisanship versus bipartisanship. He said the President tried to reach across party lines, met with implacable opposition and then, “came out fighting.”

Here’s what the Journal’s headline writer put above the column:

“Partisanship Gets the Job Done.”

This probably was intended to draw approving nods from the party faithful, but I like it, too – it’s another piece of evidence that Journal management lacks decency. Perhaps astrologers can explain why.

This doesn’t mean the editors won’t wield bold strokes in their pursuit of partisan ends – as they did Friday by not reporting a story.

As I mentioned parenthetically in my last post, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reported the current health legislation would reduce deficits by $138 billion in the first 10 years.

Parenthetically, because it broke as I was writing my comment; I read it first in a New York Times.com alert Thursday at 9:49 AM Eastern.

For Friday morning, the Times wrapped the CBO development in a larger takeout on the impending vote. The Washington Post did likewise.

And the Albuquerque Journal, how did it treat the CBO news? It didn’t.

There was no discrete CBO estimate story. And there was no health care vote story incorporating the development.

It is true the Journal’s front page AP report said (in the jump, page two) the bill would “trim federal deficits by an estimated $138 billion over the next decade.” No mention of the source. No hint that the figure was new.

I guess it wasn’t noteworthy.

The Journal cited the CBO in an editorial but left out the deficit reducing number, $138 billion.

Finally, in an Op Ed on the next page, Dr. J. Deane Waldman, identified as a UNM professor in both Health Sciences and Anderson Schools of Management, opined the bill is going to add a trillion dollars to the deficit. He offered no source.

Now the CBO produces estimates and projections, so its numbers may be off. But last year, when the CBO estimated a health reform scheme produced by Senate Democrats would cost lots more than they foresaw, the Journal ran the story on page one. Hmmm.

It’s so easy to identify the criteria by which the Journal decides which CBO reports deserve the front page and which do not. Also, which stories to print and which to ignore.

And, to return to where we began, it’s a snap distinguishing which columns get headlines respecting the content and for which columns the headline writers skew the rubrics.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Consuelo Hannan

    Thanks to the internet I can get all the true news. It took me awhile to stop the paper (I enjoy coffee and a print newspaper in the morning). I guess I like all the real facts. The Journal(in print ) will die someday but be online. I hope with all the truth out there they will change. I guess if they don’t they will just be another partisan website who hopefully will change.

  • Rodney

    Health Care FACT Check was the heading on a front page article (Thursday March 18), but what “facts” were presented? The article sites “experts” to refute claims of lower health insurance premiums under proposed federal legislation without saying who the alleged experts are. Later, 6 pages later, we learn of one source, the Kaiser Family Foundation. The same Kaiser family that founded Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest health insurance companies in the US. The Journal is a reliable ally for the party of “NO”.

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