Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Kirkpatrick runs, the knives come out

CD1 Rep Ann Kirkpatrick, having no doubt accepted that someone has to do it, today put her hand up to go against John McCain for the US Senate next year, taking on what is sure to be a costly, bloody, soul-sucking and likely losing fight. That's a pretty good news story. I am saddened and more than a little peeved to have to point out that it's not the one the Courier is choosing to run this evening.

The headline reads "House Democrat Kirkpatrick to challenge McCain for Senate." It's not "House Democrat Kirkpatrick to challenge Senate Republican McCain for Senate," of course, that would be balanced yet awful. It's not "Kirkpatrick to challenge McCain for Senate," which would do just fine. The editors made the choice of using "House Democrat" as the descriptor, which emphasizes that she is less well-known and of lower status than McCain. They're true enough, but the words are unnecessary to a headline in this area, and all editors are trained try to keep headlines as succinct as possible to save inches for the advertisers.

She shoulda bit him.
The lead picture, on a story about a three-term Representative announcing a campaign, is from the end of a debate in Tuscon during the last campaign, showing her shaking hands with former AZ House Speaker Andy Tobin, whom she defeated. Tobin is in the dominant position in the photo, to the left, taller than Kirkpatrick, who is smiling and postured a bit submissively. Consider that the AP has literally thousands of photos of Kirkpatrick, including her official portrait, any of which the Courier could have drawn upon for this story.

Nearly half the story is about the Republican lawsuit against the last redistricting and confident prognostication by Republicans that Kirkpatrick is running because she expects that her House seat will become untenable when they win it.

The story contains two quotes from Kirkpatrick. There are three from Tobin, including a thought not in quotes attributed to him. There are three from McCain and people working for him, including the final-thought story closer.

As descriptors Kirkpatrick gets "won narrowly," "targeted" and "part of the problem in Washington," where McCain gets "most influential," "formidable" and "vigorous."

All these were editorial decisions, and if they were unconscious it's worse. This is a hack attack of the lowest sort, unworthy of any news organization and embarrassing to the profession I must share with the perpetrators in the Courier editorial suite. Shame.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Dead and buried: news that matters

While Buz Williams bloviates about the leftist media elite, the Courier and most other media outlets are largely burying a story affecting the lives of a million Arizonans, half of them kids. From Cronkite News Service via The Arizona Capitol Times:

Cuts to food stamp benefits hit more than 1 million Arizonans Friday


That's tomorrow. How many people in our area will be affected? How many kids will be going to school hungry? How much money will it suck out of the tills of our local grocers? How will this additional stress spread through families and the rest of the community? We'll likely never know the answers to these questions, because they just aren't as important to our local editors as, say, baseball games.

Update, Friday: Some numbers. If this isn't repaired within the year, the AZ economy will be out about 109 million clams. And no, you're not paying less taxes to balance that. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Must-read: Why competent opposition matters

Conor Friedersdorf, writing for The Atlantic, tees off on an example from the Obamacare "debate" showing how overstretching the truth leads to dismissive backlash that can further obscure important policy considerations. If you care at all about how media decisions affect your thinking, you have to check this out:
What a Small Moment in the Obamacare Debate Says About Ideological Media

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Those pesky apostrophes

I've written before that proofreading at the Courier has improved markedly over the years I've been writing this blog, but that's the sort of territory easily lost to inattention. I'm sure most of my readers would bug out quickly if faced with a daily litany of proof complaints, so I generally let them pass. But when the headlines display ignorance of the basics. I have to say something, even though I know most of my readers can see it as well as I can.

Today the problem is painfully wrong apostrophes on the op-ed page, one buried in Tom Cantlon's column — "It's more like a couple who own an apartment complex and one wants to add to it to increase it's revenue, ...." — but the other really glaring in the editorial headline — "State can't shun it's fiscal burden."


Last I knew you can't pass the ninth grade without the ability to distinguish between the contraction "it's" and the possessive "its." You definitely can't land a paycheck as an entry-level proofreader. Seeing this get by a suite of pro newspaper editors is just embarrassing to the profession.

Boilerplate: Why does it matter? Inattention to details like this indicates disregard for clarity of communication, sloppiness of thought, and low regard for readers, editors and the publication itself, all alarming qualities in people we depend on to inform us about the conditions, needs and actions of our community.

Update, 8:30pm: Someone corrected the headline fail in the online edition, but not the one in Tom's column. This is an improvement over the policy not so long ago of not bothering at all.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Editorial: A frameup for NAU

The unnamed editor today seizes on an apparently insensitive move by a real-estate developer to slam NAU, ulterior motive in hand.

Citing this AP story, he lashes out at the university and its president, John Haeger, for supporting the elimination of a piece of a crummy trailer park to build more substantial student housing. Except neither the editor nor AP made the phone call to ask for the school's position on the matter.

Instead we get a quote from a salesman for the developer asserting that NAU is "excited" about the new buildings. I expect if he'd mined the data set a tiny bit more deeply he'd have also found out that the developer is hoping to make money on the deal from NAU students, that NAU will not own any of it, and the salesman thinks the project is new and improved. Note that the developer takes no heat here, only the school.

The editor flashes his motivation in referencing the "loss" of his favorite baseball team's "traditional" spring training program from NAU to Glendale. We've recently seen another example of the importance of this topic to the editor.

That's pretty lame, but to go after John Haeger, one of the brightest lights and sweetest people in public service in our state, for the actions of a real-estate shark is just low.