Easy journalistic game in these Times

Here is a very easy journalistic game. What we have here are two Boy Scout Jamboree leads. Both are from White House beat stories in newspapers called the Times.

Without clicking the hyperlinks, just yet, name the newspapers.

Lead No. 1 is:

President Bush drew cheers on Sunday from a crowd of tens of thousands of Boy Scouts and their parents with talk about patriotism, morals and the role of their organization in creating leaders.

And here is lead No. 2:

President Bush yesterday told more than 30,000 Boy Scouts of America gathered at their annual jamboree not to waver from their moral conviction or their duty to God and country, telling the boys that “there is right and there is wrong, and we can know the difference.”

OK, name that Times newspaper.

Easy, isn’t it?

The news here is that New York Times reporter Matthew Wald did include the crucial “right and wrong” quote — attention Dr. James Davison Hunter — later in his story, at least in an early version that was on the website. Here is the context:

Mr. Bush praised the virtues of scouting and listed all those included in the Boy Scout law, including trustworthiness and loyalty. He said that some people might “question the values you learn in scouting.”

“But remember, lives of purpose are constructed on conviction that there is right and there is wrong, and we can know the difference,” he said.

What I found interesting was that the MSM did not mention why this quote was in the speech in the first place and why the Boy Scouts are, in these times, such a controversial organization. Freedom of association is another one of those controversial issues, these days.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://www.culture-makers.com/ Andy Crouch

    The telltale difference, it seems to me, is that the Washington Times will use the phrases “moral conviction” and “duty to God and country” (especially the latter) outside of quotes. The NYT puts it in the more abstracted, second-order, language of “patriotism” and “morals.”

    There is no surer indication of one’s social location than how deftly one wields the vocabulary of abstraction to deal with matters that to most human beings are spoken about in concrete terms. This was one of the roots of John Kerry’s failure to connect with voters: he kept lapsing into Times-speak. Bush, famously, couldn’t do it if he tried.

    Also, while we’re doing rhetorical analysis of ledes, I wonder what to make of the fact that the Washington Times uses the direct language “President Bush . . . told . . .” where the NYT focuses on the response, “President Bush drew cheers . . .” A subtle but, again, abstracting shift from the talk itself to its effect on the audience, from substance to reception?

  • Maureen

    Nobody really talks about this anymore, but I know Scouting used to get a lot of criticism for being “fascist” and a “paramilitary organization”. The critics were objecting not just to uniforms and salutes, but to the fact that the organization was conceived by Lord Baden-Powell as a sort of semi-kinda pre-ROTC. I wonder how much of this is still at the root of this bizarre resentment of Boy Scouts, and specifically their support by local military units.

  • Michael

    Isn’t this also an example of newspapers playing to their core audience. Many people believe the NYT has an “upper west side” liberal bias. Many people believe the WT has a social conservative bias. Don’t these ledes really relfect both the audience that they are geared towards and the perceived bias of the newspaper.


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