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So what do we think of political news-story writing like this?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by sirvaliantbrown, Mar 25, 2009.

  1. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/25/us/politics/25obama.html?hp

    WASHINGTON — For just under an hour on Tuesday night, Americans saw not the fiery and inspirational speaker who riveted the nation in his address to Congress last month, or the conversational president who warmly engaged Americans in talks across the country, or even the jaunty and jokey president who turned up on Jay Leno.

    Instead, in his second prime-time news conference from the White House, it was Barack Obama the lecturer, a familiar character from early in the campaign. Placid and unsmiling, he was the professor in chief, offering familiar arguments in long paragraphs — often introduced with the phrase, “as I said before” — sounding like the teacher speaking in the stillness of a classroom where students are restlessly waiting for the ring of the bell.


    I'm of two minds.

    First mind: it's better that reporters explain how the man sounded and how he looked than not explain how he sounded and looked. An "Obama said ______, then Obama said ______, then, later, Obama said ____" story is less informative than one that notes the visual and rhetorical tactics he employed.

    And yet...

    Second mind: Two thoughts.

    A) Almost this entire article - the lead article on NYTimes.com; (obviously) haven't seen the actual paper - is devoted to matters of style, of tone, of appearance. It reads, really, like a theatre review. It eschews "what will he do for America" questions in favour of "how will he make America feel" questions. As if every presser meaningfully alters the national mood. It's...nonsense, really, albeit well-written nonsense. Perhaps livecast presidential press conferences are mere theatre; perhaps there is no way to write an interesting news story when there is no actual news. But...in that case, maybe the bare-bones AP-style story is preferable to one that offers a Joke Count.

    B) There's a fair bit of opinionizing in here. I don't know if the story was labeled "Analysis" in the paper; online, it wasn't. While it is objectively true that Obama offered long answers, that he seemed serious, that he rarely smiled, is it objectively true that he sounded "like the teacher speaking in the stillness of a classroom where students are restlessly waiting for the ring of the bell"? To me, he sounded like an intelligent president in command. Just because Peter Baker felt like a bored sixth-grader doesn't mean anyone else did...certainly doesn't mean the majority of viewers did. So how can this be stated in a supposed news story?

    In a Dana Milbank Washington Sketch, fair game. A1 of the Times? I say no.

    Your thoughts?
  2. Conversely, the Post's lead online story:

    President Obama sought to reassure Americans last night that his administration has made progress in reviving the economy and said his $3.6 trillion budget is "inseparable from this recovery."

    After sprinting through his first months in office, Obama is now facing heightened criticism from Republicans, who have called his blueprint irresponsible, and from skeptical Democrats who have already set about trimming back his top budget priorities.

    Obama came into office amid lofty expectations and the worst economic crisis in generations, and he succeeded in pushing through a $787 billion stimulus and launching expensive plans to revive the banking system.

    Last night, against a backdrop of a broad national anxiety that the economy may still be failing, he attempted to recalibrate the high hopes to more closely fit the challenges he said lie ahead.

    Although he spoke sharply once in response to Republican criticism, Obama struck a tone of common purpose throughout his second prime-time news conference, urging the country to be patient as he works on issues as divergent as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the malign impact of lobbying in Washington.

    "We haven't immediately eliminated the influence of lobbyists in Washington," he said from the East Room of the White House. "We have not immediately eliminated wasteful pork projects. And we're not immediately going to get Middle East peace. We've been in office now a little over 60 days.

    "What I am confident about is that we're moving in the right direction."

    Throughout the evening, Obama returned repeatedly to his belief that patience and determination will win out, declaring that the "whole philosophy of persistence, by the way, is one that I'm going to be emphasizing again and again in the months and years to come as long as I'm in this office. I'm a big believer in persistence."

    Asked about congressional efforts to chip away at his main facets of his agenda, Obama gave no indication that he would need to abandon core principles.

    "We never expected, when we printed out our budget, that they would simply Xerox it and vote on it. We assume that it has to go through the legislative process. . . . I have confidence that we're going to be able to get a budget done that's reflective of what needs to happen in order to make sure that America grows."

    During the 55-minute news conference, Obama faced no questions about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden, or terrorism. Instead, the president focused consistently on his administration's efforts to boost the economy, presenting his first budget proposal as the critical and most far-reaching step in that process.
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