Wednesday, January 18, 2006

French(!) News Agency Upstages Reuters At Objective Reporting

A Tale of Two Leads
The most effective agenda journalism (also known as propaganda) is the least obvious. As in most of the mainstream media, Reuters writers know this, and strive to slant their anti-Bush/anti-US articles subtly, to lull the reader into the illusion that they are reading straight reporting of the news, rather than cleverly crafted editorials.

The difference can be as nuanced as the placement of quotation marks, as we see from the following two reports about the same story.

From Reuters:
US abuse undermines global rights drive: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration's attempts to defend inhumane interrogation methods and seek exemptions from planned anti-torture legislation compromised campaigns for human rights around the world in 2005, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.
Notice how the Reuters story's headline states positively that "abuse" is going on, and backs it up with the authoritative-sounding word "report".

And it's followed up by the lead paragraph, which doesn't "allege" anything, but boldly states that "inhumane" interrogation methods are being used.

Reuters writer Paul Eckert has crafted an elegant piece of propaganda here, knowing that the vast majority of readers stop after reading the first paragraph. He has succeeded in getting his message out. Josef Goebbels would be proud.

Now let's see how the French news agency Agence France Presse reports the very same story:
Human Rights Watch slams US 'torture' in annual report

US counter-terrorism policies, with their deliberate use of "torture and mistreatment," put the global defense of human rights on the back foot in 2005, Human Rights Watch said in its annual report.
Well, what do you know? The AFP reporter uses quotation marks to make it very clear that the inflammatory rhetoric is coming from Human Rights Watch, and he or she is not taking a position on the issue. Just as my own journalism professor taught me to do when reporting a story.

Imagine, the Fwench showing Reuters how it should be done. Now that's what I call a "man bites dog" story.

Also posted at The Jawa Report.