by Locker Room contributor
In the latest Atlantic, Kinsley?s target is overly long newspaper articles:
Take, for example, the lead story in The New York Times on Sunday, November 8, 2009, headlined ?Sweeping Health Care Plan Passes House.? There is nothing special about this article. November 8 is just the day I happened to need an example for this column. And there it was. The 1,456-word report begins:
Handing President Obama a hard-fought victory, the House narrowly approved a sweeping overhaul of the nation?s health care system on Saturday night, advancing legislation that Democrats said could stand as their defining social policy achievement.
Fewer than half the words in this opening sentence are devoted to saying what happened. If someone saw you reading the paper and asked, ?So what?s going on?,? you would not likely begin by saying that President Obama had won a hard-fought victory. You would say, ?The House passed health-care reform last night.? And maybe, ?It was a close vote.? And just possibly, ?There was a kerfuffle about abortion.? You would not likely refer to ?a sweeping overhaul of the nation?s health care system,? as if your friend was unaware that health-care reform was going on. Nor would you feel the need to inform your friend first thing that unnamed Democrats were bragging about what a big deal this is?an unsurprising development if ever there was one.
Kinsley goes on to explain why an effort to provide ?context? to dry, fact-based news reporting ?has become an invitiation to hype.? He also notes the time-honored tradition of reporters seeking ?an expert or observer? who will parrot the reporters? own opinions about the facts included in the article.
And he strikes at one of the worst inventions in the history of news reporting: the feature lead that focuses on a ?real person? who?s affected by the news.
As is often the case when Kinsley makes a good point, you might not accept the conclusion he reaches in this piece. But if you prefer your news straight and concise, you?ll find yourself agreeing with much of his argument.