Tuesday, February 23, 2010

WSJ beats Times, Post to the point

In our era of the ever-shirnking attention spans, most readers don't get past the first few paragraphs of a story, let alone the headline. It can be hard to find a news story that delivers that benefits readers with the real goods within just a few inches.

When the US Senate on Monday voted to end debate and move toward passage of a bill aimed at spurring job creation via business tax credits, it was the politics of the vote rather than the policy itself that was emphasized in two of our nation's leading newspapers. The New York Times and The Washington Post highlighted the minimal partisan capitulation of five Republicans rather than on the machinery of the bill, which came later in the story - but not until after a reader had been drug through the polemics of Capitol Hill bartering.

The Times' 5 Republicans Help Advance Jobs Measure - the national edition print headline - ran for seven paragraphs before offering a single detail of how the Senate bill would theorhetically create jobs. In fact, a print reader would have to flip through to page A18 to get to those details, an effort many readers won't make, instead taking away the politics of the vote but not the substance of the legislation.

The Post, though employing their own reporter, offered no alternative coverage of the bill's passage. In Senate advances job-creation bill with GOP help, The Post goes six paragraphs about the bipartisan breakthrough before bothering to mention the details of what it was the senators agreed upon.

The Wall Street Journal, however managed to address the bipartisan support without pushing the legislative details to the back of the article. In Senate advances jobs bill, The Journal includes the bill's primary policy of hiring tax breaks for businesses in the second graph. The fourth graph breaks-down those tax breaks and the fifth graph offers other pieces included in the legislation.

All this vital policy information was included in less space that it took The Times and The Post to get past the politics of the day's session. The Journal article certainly includes references to the adversarial political climate in Washington, but does so in a manner deferential to the reader's interest in the actual legislation that has moved closer to becomming law.

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