Thursday, April 19, 2007


Have you noticed how we've become a nation of second-guessers? We're all about the woulda coulda shoulda. Sure isn't hard to find an opinion these days - everybody's got one. Or several. And I think the media really enables this through the use of an attention-grabbing technique that drives me apeshit: the headline question

You know what I'm talking about - they're all over the place. They encourage people to have an opinion - but sometimes just asking the question is enough to influence opinion. Sometimes these questions are highlighted in the margin and asked as part of an "unscientific" poll - but other times they're disguised as news amidst the rest of the day's headlines.

Should Imus be fired?
When is it okay to put a student away?
Does a fruity cocktail qualify as health food?
Can the U.S. Restore its Destroyed World Image?
Did the Supreme Court flip flop on abortion?
Has Tarantino been flushed away?

I think the integrity of journalism would be better served if we didn't allow these types of "questionable" headlines. They can be presumptuous and misleading, and often indirectly direct people to lend more credence to the sensational. Worse, they're easy to abuse in making social and political commentary because they can suggest something is true without providing any proof. The Fox News Channel has mastered the art of the Question mark Headline, routinely posing absurd, baseless questions that suggest by their very asking that there is some merit in the proposition.

I think if it's news, there's no question about it. Statements only please. Because if we're going down the route of Ask Yourself journalism, then what's to stop us from wondering whether Hillary is human, or if Paul Wolfowitz is the antichrist? These questions grab your attention, but blur the line between fact and speculation. And when we make speculation a headline on a reputable news site, or in a newspaper with mass appeal, doesn't that give weight to the speculation?

I don't like all of the second guessing. Should officials at Virginia Tech have shut down the campus earlier? Report the facts and let people speculate on their own. Quit filling up the airwaves with all of this hindsight garbage. It's so easy to criticize after the fact - and people have enough questions of their own without editorial masquerading as news.

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