Tuesday, September 21, 2004

A frameable moment

Daily Kos is blogging this week about George Lakoff and his notions of "framing" (Ruby will be glad to know). Toward the bottom of a long set of comments is this small window into the editing process at the NYT:

In this A Closer Look at Kerry's Record on Taxes , the following appears (italics mine) "Some of these savings are rather vague, like money saved from reducing corporate welfare tax cuts, OK? `corporate welfare' sounds kinda tendentious closing tax loopholes and improving government efficiency."

The author of this post wonders if we are seeing an editor's comment. When you look at the story now (edited since this poster saw it), you see that the answer is yes:

Some of these savings are rather vague, like money saved from reducing corporate tax cuts, closing tax loopholes and improving government efficiency.

Is this an example of editing in favor of the more neutral or "objective" word, or are some frames (for example, "improving government efficiency") just more naturalized than others?

A comment that Jay Rosen makes in his recent interview of Dan Gillmor comes to mind. Speaking specifically of the "war on terror," he observes that reporters are often in an uncomfortably difficult role simply for being the messenger:

But after [Sept. 11], another kind of problem set in. And in my mind it has to do with the question of, are American journalists American, and what is their connection to the political community? What makes them citizens of the United States as well as journalists in the United States? And particularly in an age when we're in a permanent war against terror. Terrorism is not only a big issue to cover for the mass media, terrorism incorporates the news media. The bomb doesn't terrorize until news of it is reported. And the fear and panic and reactions spread in the United States after September 11th were a reaction to the news, to what we saw on the news.

My own sense is that deep within their professional conscience and personal awareness, journalists understand that they are actually part of the regime of terror—just by doing their jobs. And perhaps have to be part of the fight against it as well. But this doesn't conform to existing wisdom in the press about detachment, and being the watchdog, separate from the society we report on. I don't think the American press has really worked out or worked through its relationship to the country and how that might be different after 9/11. And that seems to me to be a critical question for journalists to examine. But I don't know if they have necessarily the resources to do that.

From bringing the message to framing the message is not a far distance, as this example shows.

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