It’s Simply Moralizing, You See

October 3rd, 2014 · No Comments · journalism

By Arthur Alpert

The Albuquerque Journal reported Sunday, Sept. 28, that New Mexico press associations recognized excellence in covering breaking news, photography, sports, features, editorial cartoon and mobile apps.

It was good to be reminded there are many talented hardworking staffers doing professional work at the daily.

What’s lacking though is recognition of those in Journal management who see beyond the daily news meeting, past the narrow confines of professionalism and dare to explore new frontiers in journalism, going (as far as I know) where no man or woman has gone before.

That’s why I am announcing here and now the Arthur Alpert award for 2014’s Boldest Flouting of Dull Propriety in the Interest of Who Knows? And since I cannot conceive of anything like it in the next three months, we will name the winner right now.

The envelope, please? Thank you.

The BFDPIWK? 2014 award goes to….whoever wrote the headline that ran over Catherine Rampell’s syndicated column in the Wednesday, Sept. 17 issue on A6. (Note: The Rampell story does not appear in the Journal’s online edition. Here’s a link to it in the Washington Post.)

Rampell’s subject was the millennials, young adults who, she wrote, have “gotten a lot of flak for missing many of the milestones that earlier generations checked off with ease” – like getting jobs, moving out, getting married and buying their own homes.

Ripping into them isn’t fair, she argued, because economic opportunity is lacking. Until that changes, “don’t malign millennials for “rejecting” milestones that remain out of their reach.”

And the Journal’s headline?

“It’s not that millennials are lazy, you see”.

Yes, you read that right. The headline argued with the author of the column.

Now I am not going to say it’s never been done before; after all, I have not read everything ever written, not even at my advanced age. In preparation for this post however, I spent a lot of time on the Web, reading about the uses of headlines. Thus far, I’ve found not one reference to what the winner of my prize perpetrated.

It is true. The editor/headline writer actually rebuked the author of the essay!

Unique! Unheard of in journalism as we know it! Undoubtedly deserving of the Alpert award for “Boldest Flouting of Dull Propriety, etc”!

Such is my awe that I’m tempted to move on, but first let’s consider another dimension of that rubric – the moralizing.

The author was moved to blaze a trail into the unknown by a desire to make a moral judgment.

Well, you and I, having been on this earth for a few years, understand that gambit all too well. To moralize is to diminish the other and exalt oneself.

Moralizers, by fingering others as bad, pronounce themselves – by contrast – good.

Of course they’re often big, fat liars. Jim Bakker, Ted Haggard, Jimmy Swaggart, Roman Catholic priests abusing children, anyone?

Moralizers, by fingering others as bad, also distract attention from what they, themselves, do or fail to do. The Albuquerque Journal’s “journalism,” anyone?

Moralizers, by fingering others as bad, erase complexity (also known as the human condition) in favor of simplemindedness. The neo-conservative advocates of war on Iraq, anyone? Current bangers of war drums, anyone?

Moralizers, by fingering others as bad, also teach that individual virtue or lack of it is all that matters. Best technique ever invented to distract us from thinking about power (economic and political), class structure and hierarchy. The Albuquerque Journal’s political agenda, anyone?

So how did the rubric writer get away with this anti-journalism? Probably the perp was high in the Journal hierarchy, maybe even one of the True Believers whose existence I posited in a post here July 21.

At that time, while describing True Believers as certain they know the Truth and paranoid, I neglected to state the obvious – they’re moralists, too.

So I‘m guessing the author of the headline arguing with the essayist may be the True Believer (or one of plural True Believers) near the apex of the Journal ladder.

Thus far, I’ve noted the headline was unheard of in the news business and that it moralized, but it has a third dimension – political.

They’re not getting jobs, the headline writer says, because they’re lazy.

Since ABQJournalWatch is about journalism, not politics per se, I’ll permit myself to point out only how that echoed the Trusts’ reaction to Teddy Roosevelt’s populism in Ken Burns’ recent film on Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose.

And not only are oligarchic attitudes la meme chose, but today’s Albuquerque Journal proves the great traditions of journalism bequeathed us by the Hearsts and McCormicks also survive.

Darn those lazy jobless folks.

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