The folks at the McClatchy-owned News & Observer are very mad at the leader of the North Carolina State Senate.
Over the past few weeks Senator Phil Berger has been posting stories from the N&O onto his Facebook page.
And when he does, he alters the headlines.
Cue the screams of "Fake News!!!"
This is the story that the N&O has been telling.
Well, actually, it's ONE of the stories that the N&O is telling.
The OTHER story is that it wasn't Sen. Berger at all. But, rather, one of his staffers. Who quit doing so after they were admonished by Facebook that this violates the Terms of Service.
By the way... both of these stories the N&O is telling are in the same published report.
The first story is found in the headline...
The second story can be found in the body of the actual report...
So, was it Sen. Berger or his staff?
This seems like an important detail, particularly when your argument is rooted in a righteous indignation that someone would write headlines to convey a meaning that is counter to what the story states.
The Berger staff (and most on the right) believe that editors, reporters, and the always-anonymous headline writers at the N&O unfairly characterize stories - framing the left in the most positive manner while framing the right in the least positive.
There are several things that are very clear in the way this story as developed:
Berger's staff should not have done it.
Obviously, they've been trolling media outlets by re-writing headlines that tell the "real story" as they see it. Once they were told it violated Facebook's rules, it has not continued. This tells me they weren't aware it was against Facebook's rules.
The N&O - along with other media outlets - were correct to demand the practice stop. Facebook was correct in deleting the posts that violate their Terms of Service.
Also, the attempt by Berger's staff to cast this as a censorship issue (after Facebook deleted the offending posts) is silly.
The N&O is not objective
This is not surprising, given what we know about the political ideology of people who go into the field of journalism - particularly newspapers. However, the obvious hatred for Berger - along with their leftist sympathies - is clouding their judgement on this. I suspect they are also over-reacting because it's personal.
The N&O had asked Berger to stop changing its headlines on Facebook. “I am glad for you to post News & Observer articles on your Facebook page,” N&O executive editor John Drescher wrote in a Feb. 15 letter. “However, I ask that you not change the headline or photo we placed on the story, as you have several times recently. Most readers of your page will think the headline written by your staff was the original N&O headline and will be misled.”
Since the newspaper’s letter, the practice has not continued. But this week, Berger chief of staff Jim Blaine sent a response to the paper including a “modest proposal” that Berger’s staff collaborate with journalists in writing stories’ original headlines.
“Rest assured that people in our office have suggested many, many, many responses to your correspondence,” Blaine wrote.
“Please let us know if you’d be willing to work together with us to provide your readers and our readers with the accurate and honest headlines they deserve,” he wrote.
I think it's obvious that this last sentence is what prompted the N&O to dial the Outrage-O-Meter up to eleven. The sardonic offer to help the newspaper craft accurate and honest headlines is what blew this up.
Journalists hate being criticized.
The N&O will mislead you
This is a clarifying moment for North Carolinians who read the News & Observer. Given its reporting on this story, it's clear the paper will mislead you.
Both the reporter AND the official Under The Dome account state Berger altered the headlines and violated the Facebook policy. Notice the Under the Dome account also cites "his office" as disputing this.
Why does Berger get the accusation but his "office disputes."
This is dishonest.
His staffers did it. And his office disputes. Unless, of course, the N&O has evidence that the Senator changed the headlines.... which it doesn't.
Mr. Drescher is the Executive Editor at the N&O. I appreciate him responding to my comment.
He did not respond to my direct question.
I can understand why.
That being said, this is why people - particularly people on the political right - hate you, News & Observer. This is why you are deemed not credible to fairly cover politics.
And this is why, too...
There is an old saying in the newspaper business about how one should never go to war with people who buy ink by the barrel.
However, almost everyone has the internet now. And that means it's a lot harder to dictate narratives in the Information Age.
Especially when they can write their own headlines.