Thursday, August 25, 2005


No, Really, a Template!

(Via Dawn Patrol)

Blue at DSS Hubris discovers a journalistic non-sequiter in a news article by Reuters. I've highlighted the non-sequiter in bold below:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has approved full-rate production of a new Hellfire missile variant, touted by President George W. Bush for its ability to kill guerrillas in urban settings, the missile's manufacturer said on Wednesday. U.S. commanders in Iraq have asked for more of the rounds, said Lt. Col. Kevin Curry, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, who added that early versions had already been used there in 'limited numbers.' More than 1,870 Americans have been killed in Iraq since the war began in March 2003. The 'thermobaric' Hellfire AGM-114N warhead creates an intense, sustained pressure wave that can strike around corners in 'caves, bunkers and hardened multi-room complexes,' the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin Corp., said.
I write a lot of documents, I reuse a lot of older files, and having a "template" handy is a real time saver.

For those of you who don't use them or don't mass produce documents regularly, a template is a form or outline or an example document you can open, modify as needed, and then complete, submit, send, etc.

In our Headquarters, we have templates for all of our standard reports, memoranda, forms, and so forth.

Now, we may all think that these editors sit around, sending their reporters off to go get the "bad news of the day," and every article on Iraq they make sure they slip in the obligatory "X,XXX troops have been killed since the U.S. invaded Iraq in March 2003." And maybe that's a lot of the time how it happens.

But for about 18 months, say from about May 2003 and November 2004, there was another stock sentence in all the stories. Do you remember?
"X,XXX soldiers have been killed since President Bush declared an end of major combat in Iraq."
Funny, that editorial constant pretty much vanished with the failed candidacy of John Kerry. (Is there a correlation there?)

I suggest another explanation, both for the election-era "since Bush declared major combat over" snippet and the "X,XXX troops have been killed" snippet.

Anti-war media aren't just using a "figurative" template for their negative war reporting, they're using an actual one! Here's what the file looks like.

DATELINE: (Insert place and time)
(Insert news item here) More than (insert number) Americans have been killed in Iraq since the war began in March 2003. (Insert editorial comment, especially any conceivable reference to Vietnam, quagmire, increasing difficulty, failures, etc. If space permits)

Normally, this template is a real time saver for the news editor, and he can even throw the Iraq update to his most junior reporters, and they'll get it right. Of course, every now and then, an oddball story with a lot of technical jargon or really hard to understand military mumbo-jumbo comes around, and it's hard to know how to add the facts in and around the stock sentence in the middle. God knows they can't do without their statement of the context for the war news.

In this case, it looks like the snippet was the "odd meme out," and hung around until the final edit. That's when (I'd guess) the copy editor was supposed to either finesse it to fit, or cut it altogether. "The Bush Lied People Died" side of him probably just wouldn't let him delete it.

You know, like those slip ups when something like "UGH" or "Insert negative quote here" gets left in the final copy.

Link: Mudville Gazette, Basil's Blog, Outside the Beltway, Dawn Patrol at Mudville Gazette

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