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, June 13, 2005

Your newspaper is in code: Official

Not really. But there's an interesting admission in a piece from the Congressional Quarterly under hed Critics Take on Overuse of Anonymous Quotes. Not from some pandjandram at the Post or Times, admittedly: but
Bill Kovach, chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists

One takes what one can get, though:
It’s time we asked ourselves whether each time we publish an anonymous source story that maybe we are forcing our public to read a code when they don’t know what the code is.

Sing it, brother!

It's not just the handling of anonymous sources that needs decrypting without the reader realising the fact. As I've often pointed out, the journalistic product as a whole is riven with coded elements. For instance, if an apparently frontable story is placed on A17, that doesn't merely signal an intention to 'bury' it, but may also denote an asterisk awarded by the editors as to its credibility [1].

The Kovach quote will do to be going on with, pending a similar admission from Keller or Downie...

  1. A Baltimore Sun ombud piece looks at the following:
    Last Sunday's front page had a two-column lead story, "Bolton ran afoul of U.N. in '02 dispute." This Associated Press article detailed how John R. Bolton, the Bush administration's nominee to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, had played a significant role in getting the head of a U.N. organization fired because the official had disagreed with the U.S. approach to arms inspections in Iraq.

    It is unusual for The Sun to lead an edition with a nonbreaking news article from the AP. Some readers saw a motive.

    The AP piece did not run in either the Post or the Times (on any page, apparently); and the ombud comments that
    Those newspapers rarely publish any "enterprise" story that is not produced by their staffs.
    Not Invented Here as a factor moulding editorial content: another piece of code.

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