I need to wrap up some unfinished business from last week, which was a busy one. So let’s take a flashback to a major story.
Anyone who has worked in a newsroom knows what it means when a reporter briefs an editor about what happened in an event or an interview and the editor says, “That’s not all that important. Just do some bullets and put it at the end of the story.”
Bullets are those little stars, bold dots or other graphical devices — “bullets” — that copy desks put in to break up the leftovers that may or may not make it into the final editions of the newspaper. Just look for the telltale words “In other business.” Then come the bullets.
With that in mind, compare the following leads from major newspapers about President Bush’s interview with a cluster of Texas journalists, the interview that veered into his thoughts on God, science and education.
Here is the Los Angeles Times:
Advocates of an alternative to the theory of evolution took heart Tuesday from President Bush’s remarks that “both sides ought to be properly taught” in public schools.
Nicely done. Now, here is The Washington Post:
President Bush invigorated proponents of teaching alternatives to evolution in public schools with remarks saying that schoolchildren should be taught about “intelligent design,” a view of creation that challenges established scientific thinking and promotes the idea that an unseen force is behind the development of humanity.
As Texans would say, that’s close enough for horseshoes and hand grenades.
This was a big story, so there are many other newspapers we could take a look at. But let’s check out how The Dallas Morning News covered the story, since that is such a powerful newspaper in the state of Texas — home to George W. Bush and a couple of zillion other people who care deeply about this issue (just ask the people who publish school textbooks).
Here is The Dallas Morning News’ lead on this hot story:
WASHINGTON â€“- President Bush expressed “complete confidence” in adviser Karl Rove on Monday, offering the first public endorsement since his embattled aide’s name surfaced as one of the administration officials who may have had a hand in unmasking an undercover CIA agent.
Wait a minute! Is this the same Bush press conference with that circle of Texas journalists? To answer that question, you need to do some digging. Sure enough, 15 paragraphs down into the story we get to those crucial words “On other topics, Mr. Bush” and the dreaded “bullets.” There are quite a few of them and there — not in the first, second, third or fourth bullet, but in the fifth — we learn that the world’s best known Texan
• Waded gingerly into the evolution vs. creationism debate, saying local school boards should decide whether to teach evolution or “intelligent design,” an alternative creation-of-life theory promoted by religious conservatives. “You’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes,” he said.
This was a mere one bullet ahead of Bush’s remarks about the summer weather in Central Texas. He still likes to visit Texas, even if it’s hot.
Something tells me that the average citizen of the Bible-Belt Mecca called Dallas might have been more interested in the God and science story than the average Dallas Morning News editor. You think?