Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bury the boring lead

Given the choice between pumping up a continuing narrative or writing a one-off but accurate story, which will big media do? The Globe today buried the content of an actual lead paragraph of the State Senate special election story:

The results in the two races won’t alter the makeup of the state Senate, since a Democrat succeeded a Democrat and a Republican followed a Republican. Nonetheless, coupled with Brown’s stunning victory in the US Senate race this year, the Massachusetts Republican Party immediately seized on Ross’s victory as a harbinger of more wins in the fall.
Even this spins the Republican way. The second sentence could as easily have been, "Nonetheless, we'll tell you that this tie is good news for Republicans, when they didn't even have a second candidate to compete for a sweep." (And for fellow grammarians out there - not including the Globe staff who missed it - the mere thought of Mass Republicans coupled with anything stunning means that a modifier is dangling, at least!)

The actual lead paragraph was:
Giving the state GOP another boost as November elections approach, state Representative Richard Ross, a Wrentham Republican, last night won the state Senate seat recently vacated by US Senator Scott Brown.
The race the Democrat won? Repeatedly referred to as "the other race".

This is not an ideological bias; it happens in the other direction, too, as it did with the compelling Barack Obama narrative. It's a bias to tell a larger story, rather than to stick to factual reporting if it detracts from that story.

No comments: