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, September 13, 2004

Inside jump fun with the Washington Post

Post ombud Michael Getler yesterday fingered a nice little example (earlier Plawg inside jump pieces):
...a front page, above-the-fold headline said, "Cheney: Kerry Victory Is Risky." A much smaller headline below it said, "Democrats Decry Talk as Scare Tactic." These were over a story reporting that Vice President Cheney, in an appearance in Des Moines, "warned on Tuesday that if John F. Kerry is elected, 'the danger is that we'll get hit again' by terrorists."

A tad cheeky from the Fuckmeister. But the piece by Dana Milbank, usually thought of as one of the good guys (though everything is relative), and Spencer Hsu, associated in my mind with an interest in (vendetta against?) reprobate Rep James Moran (June 15), did not help by blazing the Cheney mot on A1 (three grafs), and relegating the Kerry campaign rebuttal to the inside jump. (At least it was the top of the jump [1].)

Getler says
The issue, as I see it, rests with editors rather than reporters. Reporters don't know where their stories will appear or, if they get on Page One, how much of the story will appear there, or how reporting from two campaigns and locations will be blended together. Editors preside over such things.

Well, duh! Except that, when one thinks of the disproportionate stick that the likes of Jodi Wilgoren get from the DEWDROP tendency, compared to the guys who actually put her stuff in the paper, perhaps his comment is not superfluous.

Journos pretty know that, if a piece of theirs is fronted, it's likely it will be jumped, but not necessarily where from. There's no evidence of conspiracy in the way the Milbank story was handled.

Except that - as Getler points out - the copy-editor used the word warned, which rather implied that Cheney had some factual basis for his statement. The piece could have been rejigged, perhaps, to put the graf 4 Kerry campaign rebuttal on the front page, and relegate graf 3 on Bush's Missouri trip to the jump.

What Getler gives us no information on is whether this sort of fairness point is actually considered by Post editors as they lay out the paper. Clearly, research of the Susan Moeller variety would be required to detect patterns. Is there a pro-Bush bias in the current campaign in the Post's practice on jumping stories?

  1. Online readers can't tell the story was jumped at all, of course.

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