Headline Writing

Back when I was a newspaper editor (in college, for the school weekly), I was occasionally called upon to write headlines for the articles. I always wrote my own, because I had the power, and because I didn't trust anyone else to put a title on my work, and I tried to respect the intent of the reporter, and the information in the story, as much as possible when I wrote them.

Since I started blogging, I've become very aware of how often that isn't the case in the traditional media. It's gotten so I rarely focus on headlines beyond using them as a gauge to see if I'd be remotely interested in the topic of the story--I don't depend on them for any information.

Ths story is an example of why I feel that way. The headline is "Vulnerable Democrats See Fates Tied to Clinton." Okay--I can buy the premise in the sense that anyone running in a tight district is going to be affected by the Presidential nominee, although I question why Clinton is being singled out as opposed to, say, Republicans in tight district with Mitt Romney as the potential nominee. The answer is easy--the press corps has gotten so used to the idea that Clinton will necessarily be a drag on the ticket that they've internalized it--they've also gotten so inured to thinking that everything is always a boon for the Republicans. Witness the coverage of the NIE release yesterday for an example of that.

The article focuses on one Democrat in particular, Rep. Nancy Boyda from Kansas, who won in a fairly conservative district with help from Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius. But while the piece takes on an air of hand-wringing concern for those Democrats running in conservative districts being affected by the potential nomination of Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket, it doesn't actually quote many Democrats, and those they do quote seem unconcerned. Boyda herself says "It is something I have no control over, quite honestly. They will demonize any Democrat who becomes the nominee. I just put my head down and work.” And I think that's accurate, seeing as that's about all the Republicans can do this election cycle--it's not like they have a record to run on.

But none of the Democrats quoted in the piece seem too concerned. A spokesperson from Clinton's camp says, as you would expect, that she'll help down-ticket races, and Chris Van Hollen, Chair of the DCCC, notes that Democratic incumbents in tight districts have been quite capable of holding onto their seats in the past.

So where does the hand-wringing come from? As you might expect, it's from people afraid to go on the record.

House Democrats do not like to discuss the idea of reverse coattails for fear of giving it too much credence and angering the Clinton camp. But they are privately nervous about what Mrs. Clinton’s nomination might mean in Republican-leaning locales where they made gains in 2006 that were crucial to their becoming the majority.
And they're scared, of course, by the big, powerful Clinton machine. Pardon me while I roll my eyes for the next twenty minutes.

It's not like any of this is unexpected--we'll get a steady diet of this sort of thing for the next eleven months. I'll tell you this much. If I were a Democrat running in a tight district, I'd rather have Clinton at the top of the ticket than if I were a Republican in a tight district and had, well, any of that group of jerkwads at the top. Like Giuliani's going to win the crowd over with his personality, or Romney will engage them with his rock-solid stances on issues. But no--the line, especially if Clinton wins the nomination will be "will she hurt down ticket races?" ad nauseam for the next eleven months.

It's almost enough to make me support her, just to jam it in the media's face. Almost.

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