Why would a newspaper do this?: In this morning's New York Times, Katie Rogers handles the news report about President Trump's latest astonishing interview.
We refer to yesterday's interview with Chris Wallace. During the interview, Trump said that he has "heard" that we have the best coronavirus mortality rate in the world.
That's what the commander-in-chief has heard! The interview was marked by other such embarrassments.
Below, you see the first four paragraphs of the Times' report on the interview. We're going to highlight two key phrases. Why would a newspaper do this?
ROGERS (7/20/20): An agitated President Trump offered a string of combative and often dubious assertions in an interview aired Sunday, defending his handling of the coronavirus with misleading evidence, attacking his own health experts, disputing polls showing him trailing in his re-election race and defending people who display the Confederate flag as victims of “cancel culture.”Why would a newspaper do that? The problem is fairly obvious:
The president’s remarks, delivered in an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” amounted to a contentious potpourri more commonly found on his Twitter feed and at his political rallies.
The difference this time was a vigorous attempt by the host, Chris Wallace, to fact-check him, leading to several clashes between the two on matters ranging from the coronavirus response to whether Mr. Trump would accept the results of the election should he lose.
The president made a litany of false claims about his administration’s handling of the virus...
If we read through to paragraph 4, we're told that the president "made a litany of false claims" as he spoke with Wallace. But in paragraph 1, in this report's lede, we're only told that Trump made "dubious" assertions, using "misleading" evidence.
How weird! If the president made a litany of claims which were flatly false, why wasn't that reported in the opening paragraph? Why wasn't that the main takeaway? If many of his claims were false, why would you open with "dubious?"
We'll note that whoever wrote the headline understood an obvious fact—claims which are "false" are more newsworthy than claims which are merely "dubious." The headline in question says this:
Trump Leans Into False Virus Claims in Combative Fox News InterviewDuh. False claims are more significant than claims which are merely dubious. Almost anyone would understand that—anyone but the Times.
We say "the Times" because we'll assume that Rogers' editor engineered this oddly inverted presentation. We'll assume that Rogers' copy made better logical sense, and that her editor jumbled it up.
Absolutely nothing will turn on this peculiar inversion. That said, it's amazing to see how often this sort of conceptual bungling afflicts the storied Times.
For what it's worth: As she continues, Rogers lists some of the claims by Trump which she says are false. For what it's worth, we're not sure we'd call some of those claims false, as opposed to somewhat or grossly misleading.
What we would do is this—we'd tell our reporter to explain how our mortality rate compares to others around the globe. We night even suggest that she include a basic graphic, like this:
Total coronavirus deaths to date, per million population:
United States: 433
South Korea: 6
New Zealand: 4Does it look like we have the world's best rate? We don't think it does!
Rogers included no such material. Who needs information?