Just Another Groundhog Day

February 22nd, 2012 · No Comments · tax policy

By Arthur Alpert

Remember “Groundhog Day”, where Bill Murray had to relive day after day after day? I sure do.

You see, in a post here Monday, I demonstrated how the Albuquerque Journal uses its front page to promote its editorial agenda, despite paying a price for it.

And then I read the Monday, Feb. 2 Journal and it was “Groundhog Day”!

Journal editors repeated the same trick.

This time the lead story, headlined “Potential Tax Shock in 2013”, was a think piece (or “dope story,” as we old-timers say) by Lorie Montgomery of the Washington Post.

Now there’s nothing wrong with putting an interpretative essay on the front page; readers do not live by hard news alone.

The headline, though, is strange. It’s not new that taxes may go up in 2013. And it’s not news.

So what happened?

Journal editors took the headline from the lead; that’s standard operating procedure with news stories because reporters put what’s new first.

But as noted, this wasn’t a news story. It was a dope story wherein writers first sum up a state of affairs before exploring, with supporting information, what “could be” in the future.

So editors most often derive the headline for a think piece from its middle or end.

Journal editors chose to put a news story rubric on a dope story, telling us what we already know.

Can’t wait for “Sun Rises in East, Experts Say”.

Montgomery’s piece dealt with the political conflict over whose taxes will rise.

And Montgomery’s “could be” was that the President may have an edge in the coming big brawl when “make the wealthy pay more” enters the ring versus “set the cuts in stone.”

None of that made the headline.

Accidental?

Think about it. The strategy of those who oppose raising taxes on the rich includes demonizing taxes, frightening citizens with the prospect of higher taxes and trying not to discuss tax fairness.

Now look at the headline again. It ignores Montgomery’s “could be.” And it ignores tax fairness.

Thus does the Journal use headlines to promote its editorial agenda.

There’s a price. By putting Montgomery’s think piece on page one, editors risk that readers will read the entire piece, including her view that this time the President holds the upper hand.

It’s just a guess, but the Journal may figure it’s an acceptable risk, that most readers will absorb the headline and turn to Lobo basketball.

PS Back on Feb. 6, I wrote about the Journal’s coverage of the “fracas” when Occupy Santa Fe demonstrated as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) wined and dined legislators at the Eldorado Hotel.

There’s a brief on the Santa Fe police’s ongoing probe in the Tuesday, Feb. 21 issue, C2, which describes ALEC as “conservative.”

Note, please, that the Journal has yet to report on the Koch Brothers-backed organization. Also, that (arguably) calling ALEC “conservative” maligns conservatives. But that’s a story for another day.

If there is another day.

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