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January 6, 2010

Michael Kinsley argues that news writers have traded their brevity and factual directness for obfuscating pablum that tends to blow all the wrong parts of a news story out of proportion to their importance.

Once upon a time, this unnecessary stuff was considered an advance over dry news reporting: don’t just tell the story; tell the reader what it means. But providing “context,” as it was known, has become an invitation to hype. In this case, it’s the lowest form of hype—it’s horse-race hype—which actually diminishes a story rather than enhancing it.

Such conventions tend to treat “both sides” of any issue on equal terms and causes an article to dance around the point for as long as possible in order to avoid offending one’s source of information/quotation by desensitizing the audience to anything actually sensational within the article.  Hmm, where have I heard that one before?

Then again, I can think of certain situations where it would be preferable to give all the context all the time instead of cutting it down to the “relevant” details, as this picture graphically illustrates.

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