“Low circulation can be attributed to opinion piece newspaper stories which function as news stories, which in turn produce negative responses from those of us who are out-of-step with newspaper propaganda,” says reader NJT, who might have had in mind yesterday’s Chi Trib top-of-page-one article, “Military options against Iran carry big risks: Strategic [sic: Strategy] and policy experts analyze tactics available--and possible retaliation--if the U.S. launches an attack designed to thwart Tehran's nuclear ambitions,” which typically preaches to the pacifist choir and is wholly one-sided.
It also assumes we know war on Iran is being planned. That may be all the buzz in the Washington bureau, but some readers would appreciate more stage-setting. And this is aimed at readers, we presume.
We read that “analysts suggest” and “analysts describe” and even the flaccid “experts said,” which are standard newspaper thumb-sucking lingo but means analysts and experts the Trib thought worth asking or reading about or some or many or most analysts, or . . . what? Trib puts us at its mercy, relying on our considering it trustworthy; hence the preaching to choir. But if there are no or few analysts who contradict what they report, we should be told that. Part of mainstreamers’ problem is how fuzzy they get in such matters. Fuzzy writing means fuzzy thinking means who cares?
As for stage-setting, not till paragraph 7 do we read
While President Bush this week dismissed the idea of military action against Iran as "wild speculation," he did not deny reports that the administration is developing plans for air strikes and has long said all options are on the table.
This belonged farther up, even as the lead, if only for stage-setting purposes. But wait: “wild speculation” in a subordinate clause, the “while” clause? This isn’t more important that that as background to Trib’s presumably unwild speculation?
(While we’re at it — during the time — how about dispensing with the all-purpose “while” when we mean “although”? It’s clearer and more honest. And make your “while” clause the main clause, and introduce the next clause with “but.” Two independent clauses, one countering the other. Readers would appreciate it.)
Here’s another paragraph (12th) that belongs much higher up:
Public pronouncements from the White House have laid the rhetorical groundwork for the use of military force. In January, Bush described a nuclear-armed Iran as "a grave threat to the security of the world," words reminiscent of the language he used before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
OK. Now at least we know what this editorial (sorry, news analysis) is driving at. It’s followed by Cheney saying “meaninful consequences” should follow Iranian refusal to abandon its nuclear program. Then several ‘graphs that say how all this might be just diplomatic talk, etc.
Oh boy. 1,500 words and there we are, much ado about what? And where are the analysts who contradict the editorial (oops, news analysis) thrust? Trust us, says Chi Trib. But it gets harder by the day.