Monday, April 13, 2020

MSMedia Help Democrats Avoid Bad Press

Original NY Times Headline
This is fast becoming my favorite genre of journalism: A major news outlet will at first report accurately on a breaking news event, but then amend its own headline later in such a way as to make sure it does not a) reflect well on Republicans or b) reflect poorly on Democrats.

On Thursday,  after Senate Democrats killed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s small-business COVID-19 relief package, CNN published a breaking news headline that read, “Democrats block GOP-led funding boost for small business aid program.”

There is nothing wrong with that headline. It is entirely accurate, writes Becket Adams in an opinion piece for The Washington Examiner.

But CNN changed it anyway to remove all negative implications for Democratic lawmakers. The headline now reads, “Senate at stalemate over more COVID-19 aid after Republicans and Democrats block competing proposals.” Well, shucks, wouldn’t you know it? There is blame to go around for everyone!

Politico did the same thing. Its initial headline claimed Thursday afternoon, “Senate Dems to block new coronavirus relief in bid for more money.” Its revised headline, however, now suggests there is blame to go around. It now reads, “Senate brawl derails fast push for new coronavirus relief.”

Fourth Revision of NY Times headline, same story

Then, of course, there is the New York Times, which reported originally on its live updates blog, “Democrats block G.O.P. proposal for aid to businesses, request more fund.” That has since been amended to read “As Economy Hemorrhages Jobs, Aid Stalls in Senate.”

The really funny thing about this is: These are not even the first examples in this media trend.

In late March, immediately after Senate Democrats scuttled a trillion-dollar-plus coronavirus relief package, the New York Times declared in its initial breaking news headline, "Democrats Block Action on $1.8 Trillion Stimulus."

That headline did not last long.

It was soon changed to, “Democrats Block Action on Stimulus Plan, Seeking Worker Protections.” Amazingly, it was changed a third time and a fourth time, to “Partisan Divide Threatens Deal on Rescue Bill,” and then to “Emergency Economic Rescue Plan in Limbo as Democrats Block Action.”

In all these examples, the headlines have been amended in a way that spares Democratic lawmakers the bad press. It would be one thing if the headlines were amended merely for clarity or brevity’s sake. But it is impossible to ignore that the edits all serve one specific political party’s interests.

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