Let me say publicly that DonBoy’s answer exudes a combination of intuitive genius and confidence that make me think DonBoy is going to do big things in his life. -- Steven D. Levitt (Freakonomics blog)
Friday, November 25, 2005
Dog-Whistle Journalism

You may have heard the expression "dog-whistle politics", which is apparently an Anglicism that refers to what we'd call code words in political speech. A classic American example is Bush's reference, in one of the debates in the 2004 campaign, to the Dred Scott decision, which seemed like an peculiar digression to much of the mainstream but which, we later learned, was probably a signal to the anti-abortion right, which likes to compare Roe v Wade to Dred Scott, the pro-slavery Supreme Court decision that has since been repudiated by history; the point being that evil USSC decisions aren't the end of the story, and the meta-point being that if you didn't know what Bush was saying, you'd miss the implied reference to Roe.

Anyway, it turns out you can do this in the New York Times as well, and you don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to believe in the dog whistle. To wit:

NBC did not interrupt its broadcast of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade
yesterday to bring viewers the news that an M&M balloon had crashed into a
light pole, injuring two sisters.

In fact, when the time came in the tightly scripted three-hour program for
the M&Ms' appearance, NBC weaved in tape of the balloon crossing the finish
line at last year's parade - even as the damaged balloon itself was being
dragged from the accident scene. At 11:47 a.m., as an 11-year-old girl and her
26-year-old sister were being treated for injuries, the parade's on-air
announcers - Katie Couric, Matt Lauer and Al Roker - kept up their light-hearted
repartee from Herald Square, where the parade ends.

Well, this sure caught our attention at my house, since we have a family member working for NBC News, they've just had their President (a family friend) replaced, and the organization is known in the industry to be, as they say, "beleagured" (although, the way we see it here, News is doing great, but Entertainment isn't holding up its end). We spent a couple of minutes (in the absense of Emmy Sister) guessing whether the parade was being done by News or not. Given the lead roles of Katie, Matt, and Al, we presumed it was an extended Today show broadcast,which would be News.

But wait, here's the whistle:
But Cameron Blanchard, a spokeswoman for NBC's entertainment division,
which broadcast the parade
, said that the anchors did not deviate much from
the script because it was not clear at the time what had happened. "We had been
alerted that there had been an incident," she said. "But no further details had
been conveyed to us."

I admire the way the key clause is just slipped in there. If you're casually reading the paper, it just seems like careful sourcing. If you're reading it as someone who cares about media gossip, and the state of NBC News in particular, then the Times is here to serve its mission as the House Organ of Mainstream Media. Well played, I say!

Powered by Blogger Weblog Commenting by
free website counter