The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Monday, January 12, 2004

The Sacramento Bee and UK tabloid trash

Picked from the afore-mentioned yawn-making ombud pieces - because it focuses once again on the What is news? and British journalism questions.

It's sparked, the ombud says, by
an e-mail I received last week from a reader who questioned why The Bee did not pick up a Dec. 20 wire service report that alleged Saddam Hussein was captured not as a result of American military intelligence and tactics, but because of a ransom deal with the Kurdish Patriotic Front.

Cutting to the chase, the piece was on the Agence France-Presse (AFP) wire, and they had lifted it from an edition of the London Sunday Express.

The following shows that at least somewhere in the American media, there is some genuine vim in the editorial function:
Essentially what we have here is blind news twice removed. Few newspapers (I hope) would publish a wire service story about a news story generated by a partisan, sensationalist British tabloid -- hyperbole knows no bounds in the Sunday Express -- that relies entirely on anonymous sources. "A Western intelligence source in the Middle East" could be anyone from Paul Bremer to the guy who dug Saddam's spider hole. It's tough to give that kind of report much credence, if any.

Thank you, and good night!

It goes on
While withholding a story this thin is a no-brainer for editors, it brought to mind the frequent queries this office and Bee editors receive from readers wondering why some news items they've seen on television or heard on the radio or read on the Internet don't wind up in The Bee.

And discusses why this might be. It's a bit sniffy about net sources - talking about
an overabundance of sloppiness, sophistry and disinformation on the Web.
Pots and kettles, anyone?

But the need to discriminate is certainly right - and applies as much to the reader as to the media outlet.

Of course, what this MO does not do is to give the reader of the Sac Bee - and, in particular, the guy who's paid good money for a dead-tree copy - any benefit from the exercise of the Bee editorial staff's judgement in keeping a particular story doing the rounds out of the paper. And decisions to keep stuff out may involve quite as much editorial value added as decisions to put stuff in.

Perhaps there ought to be a column for rejects?

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