AP Keeps Lois Lerner's Name Out of Headline and Opening Paragraph in Two Reports

April 9th, 2014 10:34 PM

I suspect that many readers who do their best to keep up with the news at a detailed level have a hard time understanding how many of their friends, acquaintances and neighbors — even many who they know put some effort into keeping up with current events — can be so unaware of many objectively important news developments.

There are two answers to that question. One is that the establishment press very often doesn't cover important matters at all; all one has to do is recall the empty media chairs at the trial of pre-born and newborn baby butcher Kermit Gosnell. The other is that when they do cover a story, journalists and their news outlets often do all they can to keep key names and facts out of their headlines and opening paragraph. Thanks to the fact that many people now consume news using computers, tablets, and smartphones, this stalling tactic may be even more effective now than it was in the print-only days.

A pair of Associated Press reports by Stephen Ohlemacher, one from earlier today and another from last Thursday, both concerning developments relating to retired IRS employee Lois Lerner, exemplify the tactic's use:


Both stories avoid mentioning Lerner's name. That takes a lot of work, given that she is the object of potential criminal charges. Additionally, Ohlemacher's stories also could and should have been more precise in describing the issue as the "tea party targeting controversy."

The chances of clickthroughs on the headlines seen above on electronic devices are far lower than they would have been if Lerner's name had been added to the headlines. Many electronic news digests also include the first sentence or so of the reports themselves. In each case above, the text is less interesting than it would be if Lerner's name had been included.

This tactic also has an effect on AP's subscribers, who also receive their content electronically. Previously, when a news report came in "over the wire" onto printed paper, the receiver would ordinarily read the entire report, make a judgment as to whether it should be published or broadcast locally, and would often edit it to ensure that key facts were presented. But now, as is the case with consumers, they make these judgments based on top-level headlines and opening paragraphs, often looking no further.

In today's writeup, Ohlemacher explained exactly why Lerner's name should have either been headlined, included in the first paragraph, or both (bolds are mine):

Lerner has emerged as a central figure in investigations by congressional committees. The House Oversight Committee has scheduled a vote for Thursday on whether to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions at two congressional hearings.

At both hearings, Lerner invoked her constitutional right against self-incrimination. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said Lerner had effectively waived her Fifth Amendment right not to answer questions by providing an opening statement at a hearing last year.

Taylor and Democrats on the oversight committee disagree.

Lerner is an attorney who joined the IRS in 2001. She retired last fall, ending a 34-year career in federal government, which included work at the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission.

In case you're wondering, the paragraphs just excerpted were the final four in Ohlemacher's 24-paragraph report.

There isn't a chance in Hades that a public official in an analogous situation in a Republican or conservative administration would get analogous name-hiding treatment.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.