I dislike headlines that end in question marks. A year ago it seemed that few were without them. Things have improved, but there’re still too many in teasers for television news, local papers, and the national media. Today there were national headlines asking whether Trump would mess up with North Korean negotiations, if reporting on Klobuchar’s treatment of subordinates was fair, why Kim only travels by train, and whether dark forces are messing with the cosmos?
Maybe they’re intended to entice as in: Wow! What a great question; I can hardly wait to hear the answer. More often I think they imply an opinionated answer disguised as reporting. It causes me to suspect the writer has manipulated facts to fit an answer already implied by the headline question. On the other hand, have publishers handed off headline writing to the marketing staff? Would that be a good idea?
As a commentator commenting on inappropriate commenting, reporters need to report before they do any analysis, and analysis must stay as far away from opinion as it can, which is not always easy, I understand that. But let there be no questionable headlines that suggest judgment before the what, where, how, when, who is even known.
As long as I’m on a minor rant, although the NYT is one of my favorite go to papers (the others are WPO, WSJ, and the Guardian), they allow important news articles to be embedded with opinion in ways the others do less often. And it’s not a recent thing. I griped about it thirty years ago. Add that to competition to be out there with breaking news as quickly as cable does it, and they too often jump the gun without adequate due diligence. For example, they, along with others, were a little too quick to judgmentally report on Sen. Feinstein’s meeting with young Green New Deal advocates, and on Sen. Klobuchar’s management practices. To be fair, they usually follow up with more detailed reporting a few days later, but it’s lousy timing. Will Trump screw up in talks with Kim? Given his track record, it’s entirely possible, maybe even likely, but first let’s see what actually happens, and not play games guessing about outcomes. Leave that to pundits, who, like Wall Street Analysts, are right by chance more than anything else.
Still, and contrary to Trump’s many complaints and accusations, the Times is an important and necessary source of well written news articles long enough to cover more than cable news basics. When they err, amendments are quickly made. Besides, they can be checked against the other sources, with Reuters added in as a pretty good backup.
One other complaint before I bring this nonsense to a close. It has to do with Rachel Maddow, whom I used to watch several times a week. She may be “the smartest person on television,” but dang she’s repetitive. How many times can she say the same thing, sometimes word for word, but usually with minor mutations, before moving on to her main point, or any point? Sometimes she goes on so long I get distracted by the crossword, or something the dog wants, and miss it altogether. I doubt she’s yet found the upper limit for repetition. Yes, she does her research, is not often caught with a Pinocchio, does investigate important issues, but when I watch I find myself yelling at the t.v. for her to get to the point already!
Maybe the whole lot of them should take a master class from my friend Sheila Hagar, a pro in the old way, a do it all reporter for the little Walla Walla Union Bulletin. No Pulitzer in her future, no book writing fortune either, just solid reporting on whatever needs reporting.