The self-fulfilling story

I found myself irritated by today’s story in the New York Times that asks whether putting money from the bailout toward broadband would be a waste. The question was its own answer. So was the placement of the story atop page one. The reporter creates generic groups of experts to say what the he wants to say (I know the trick; I used to be a reporter): “But experts warn…. Other critics say…. Other supporters said…”

I wish that every time he did that, the words “experts,” “critics,” and “supporters” were hyperlinked to a page that listed three of each.

It’s an obvious case of a story with an agenda: ‘I’m going to set out to poke a hole in this.’ But the agenda is unstated because reporters don’t state opinions, of course, they find others (or create generic spokesmen) for their opinions.

Compare and contrast that with Andrew Ross Sorkin’s good column suggesting that watchdogs should get bonuses. It, too, has an agenda, but because it’s a column, it’s more forthright about it – and that forthrightness give it more credibility. Yes, it’s labeled as a column. But the essential goal of both pieces of type is to make a suggestion. One is just more honest about it.

My other problem with the broadband story is that it thinks as short-term as Wall Street and politicians. It assumes that every dollar in the stimulus should work immediately. I think, on the other hand, that there is no magic bullet and that building real value and real jobs in new industries long-term is the only real answer. Enough with short-term thinking already.

Instead of a faux-definitive story on page one of the New York Times, how much better this topic could be handled as a debate. Just as the article is insufficient for complex stories, so is it inadequate for complex debates.

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  • http://www.hubdub.com Nigel Eccles

    While they are at it can they get rid of the story jumps? The typical front page of the NYT has four stories on it each of which is continued ‘somewhere on page 5′, ‘somewhere on page 9′, ‘somewhere in some other section’ etc. It is not as if print is a new medium. Does any reader actually like jumps?

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    The story had five named and quoted sources. That should be enough to satisfy anybody.

    Jeff, I suggest you get your eyeglass prescription checked.

  • Linda Hall

    Clearly, Herszenhorn just got in from the 70′s. (I’ve noticed that time-warped thing about him before) The broadband column this morning read like a joke. Shame on the Times for putting that thing above the fold. It needs folding, OK, into a tiny accordian that Mr H can play on the radio for all the outlyers who don’t need the Internet anyway…

  • http://www.hubdub.com Nigel Eccles

    Surely the real problem is that the NYT pretends to be objective when that clearly untrue. If US papers just admitted their bias (as they do in the UK and are respected for it) then there wouldn’t be an issue.

  • Francis Burdett

    ” It assumes that every dollar in the stimulus should work immediately. I think, on the other hand, that there is no magic bullet and that building real value and real jobs in new industries long-term is the only real answer. Enough with short-term thinking already.”

    But if a budgetary item _is _ in the “get it out the door before 500 more million Americans lose their jobs” stimulus bill-

    it should damned well _be_ short term stimulus.