A strange “gotcha” from Mitchell Schnurman

This is a strange twitter “gotcha” from Mitchell Schnurman, a columnist for the Dallas Morning News:

Of course, Obamacare represents interference with markets, large government (not small), and patronage (the “Navigator” program is not subject to much in the way of oversight, or even much in the way of minimal qualifications for the job — in other words, it’s a great way to provide jobs to those who support the President and his party, Chicago-machine-style).

Texas conservatives looking to provide SOME guidance as to what qualifications/training a “navigator” should possess have not exactly become anti-market, big-government zealots — and Schnurman’s insinuation that they are being hypocritical or contradictory is just silly.

Of course, Schnurman has a history of being silly (perhaps even biased) when it comes to politics (scroll down to “Houston is role model for pensions” — the column is no longer available, but it was intended as a boost to Bill White way back when). Maybe Schnurman should stick to business.

Texas Monthly executive editor: Tea Partiers and Ted Cruz are big stupidheads

Many journos who use Twitter place the disclaimer “RTs don’t constitute endorsement” (or some variant) in their bio, presumably to keep up the illusion of not having an opinion on politics, which they can therefore cover objectively.

It’s really kind of a silly claim, but that’s the modern j-school mindset at work here in the U.S.

Still, what’s fun about Twitter is that those journos who do a fair amount of RTing — say, the Houston Chronicle‘s leftwing bureau chief David McCumber — usually reveal quite a bit about their reading patterns (in McCumber’s case, a heavy dose of establishment and left-leaning sites, and no real conservative sites).

And then there are the journos who seem to think nobody is actually paying any attention to what they tweet. Mimi Swartz, an executive editor at Texas Monthly, is one of those sorts of twitter users (although she also exhibits the RT behavior of McCumber).

Recently, there’s Mimi Swartz all but calling Sen. Ted Cruz dumb:

And then there’s Mimi Swartz with a non-sequitur:

What does Ted Cruz have to do with Kony? Beats me. But Mimi Swartz knows, because she’s sharper than you. And me.

Don’t believe me? Well, if you have any sympathies for the Tea Party movement — and chances are you might if you’ve followed this blog for very long — Mimi Swartz has tweeted just that:

So, to sum up the executive editor of Texas Monthly from recent twitter output: Ted Cruz is stupid, Tea Party people are stupid, and Ted Cruz hasn’t tracked down Kony (or something).

At least Mimi Swartz doesn’t bother with the insipid “RTs don’t constitute endorsements” disclaimer on her twitter bio. *shrug*

Public Interest Journalism(!): How to frame an abortion clinic safety regulation story

I don’t bother much with posts about media bias these days for any number of reasons (it’s a little like shooting fish in a barrel, it eats up a lot of time, there’s less need for it now that academics have taken up the matter more rigorously), but every once in a while it’s still instructive to take apart a story that clearly illustrates the phenomena. So without further adieu, here’s a graf-by-graf examination of a story that appeared a few weeks ago in the Texas Tribune, a Texas online news site founded by a rich one-time Democratic activist that bills itself as a “public interest journalism” nonprofit.

We’ll first start with the headline:

Bill Could Reduce Number of Texas Abortion Facilities

Headlines are important. A good headline should briefly convey what is to come, and what is most important about what is to come.

Headlines reflect editorial choices and emphasis. For example, the Texas Tribune might have chosen the following factual headline: Legislators propose to tighten abortion clinic safety requirements. They did not.

The Texas Tribune might have chosen to append “critics say” to their headline. They did not.

Rather, the Texas Tribune chose a headline that signals to readers, right off the bat, that there is merit to the critics’ assertions — that they are closer to fact than opinion.

It’s preliminary framing, and indeed sets the stage for what follows.

Read more »

How a bad headline choice can detract from what follows

A friend posted the following story to his Facebook feed this week:

Greeks find cause of all their woes: the Jews (Abraham Cooper and Harold Brackman, Times of Israel)

I almost didn’t post about this, because at first, I thought the headline writer was trying to make a subtle, “see what I did there?” point about the silliness of peoples irrationally blaming whole other peoples for their woes. But upon reflection, I’m still not convinced the headline writer was trying to do that, and even if so, I think many readers would miss the subtlety (making it ineffective advertising for an article meant to draw attention to the rise of anti-Semitism in a country).

Now, it’s true that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Greece, and this is troubling. I would never suggest otherwise, nor do I have any complaints about those who monitor such developments very carefully (a Holocaust can and should attune people to such matters!). The problem in the headline is the broad use of “Greeks,” implying that Greece in its entirety is part of this anti-Semitic wave (rather than a bigoted faction, who should rightly be called out). I don’t think that’s the case at all in the country — although it IS true that there is a rise in anti-EVERYTHING attitudes nationwide (revulsion at the European Union for effectively extending the credit card then taking it away, revulsion at Angela Merkel and Germany in general for being “austerity” proponents after taking the credit card away, revulsion at Greece’s own crony-kleptocratic political leaders, and yes, among some factions, revulsion at “the Joos” as if they are somehow to blame). None of it is wholly rational, nor is there any single “anti” thread that prevails among all Greeks — beyond the despair that many feel about their country’s current plight.

Oddly, the article’s subhead would have actually made for a much better, much more effective headline than “Greeks blame Jews”:

As Greece’s economy teeters on the brink, virulent anti-Semitism is making an alarming comeback

That’s true, so far as it goes, and describes the thrust of the article. The additional context of the rise of so much “anti” sentiment in general in Greece is probably worth noting, as well as the impact of the same on elections (who can really say WHAT “the Greeks” voted FOR in their most recent elections).

Introducing Texas Iconoclast

Evan, Cory, and I threw open the doors to our new project today.

Please come check out Texas Iconoclast.

Evan does a nice job describing our thinking here, and the About page has a bit more.

Basically, we’re offering a daily roundup of essential reading on Texas Politics, from a center-right perspective, with a little commentary thrown in for good measure. We’re still feeling our way through the group production a bit, but eventually I think we’ll get a pretty nice discussion going. Be an early adopter and come chime in!

Linkpost (08/30/09) — The old/new media edition

I keep falling behind on the linkposts. Here are three media-centric links that I hope you follow. This is some of the best reading on media (new and old) I’ve run across lately. I’ll try to resume more political linkblogging soon. Maybe (football season is looming, after all). :)

Five Key Reasons Why Newspapers Are Failing, Pt. 1 (Bill Wyman, Splice Today)

The commentators most caught up in the romanticized notion of newspaper cite the potential loss of the newspapers