Tripping over b-roll and headlines

We were watching the 6 p.m. news on KITV on Saturday evening while waiting for friends to arrive for dinner, and there was a story about a workshop sponsored by the University of Phoenix. We were only paying half attention as we tried to wrap up our pre-meal preparations.

But we both noticed that while the voiceover went on about the workshop, and a brief sound bite from the University of Phoenix campus director followed, the b-roll video running in the background was of students strolling through the center of the University of Hawaii’s Manoa campus.

To someone unfamiliar with the differences between UH Manoa and the essentially campus-less Phoenix operation, which holds classes in a downtown Honolulu office building, this would have been seriously misleading.

Meda, a long-time UH faculty member, was bouncing off the walls in frustration.

When I went to the KITV website this morning, I couldn’t find any trace of this story. And I couldn’t find any information about the workshop on the University of Phoenix website either. Hmmmmm…

And if you think headlines don’t really matter all that much, this week’s flap over the jobs impact of the Affordable Care Act provides a key lesson.

“Obamacare costs 2 million jobs” was the headline many people saw in news reports on a new Congressional Budget Office report. The news reports generally had it right, but the headline was something else.

It set off a barrage of conservative commentary. And it was wrong.

Economist Paul Krugman explained the error.

And CBO, wich has been burned before on this sort of thing, really needs to be more careful in how it states things — a lot of the press ran with the headline “Obamacare costs 2 million jobs”, and it will become part of what everyone on the right “knows”, yet is totally untrue. First of all, we’re mainly talking about reduced hours rather than quitting the work force. Second, as Greg Sargent and Jonathan Cohn try to explain, we’re talking about a voluntary, supply-side response here — people choosing to work less — not about job destruction.

Others also scrambled to offset the false impressions.

It seems to me that the real impact here is that some people who have been hostages to health insurance via their jobs will now be able to stop working, or work less, and still qualify for insurance, opening up jobs to some of the millions of Americans still looking for work. If we’re really talking the equivalent of some two million jobs, that could make a real dent in unemployment.

So what if the NY Times and other had put a different spin on the report with a headline like this: “Obamacare job shifts to offer employment opportunities”

Would the public discussion that followed have been different? No doubt.

I’ve been accused of being too picky about certain headlines in the past. I’ll remember to refer to this as an example of how the slant in headlines really matters.

4 responses to “Tripping over b-roll and headlines

  1. Heh. Check out the photo that accompanies today’s Civil Beat story on controlling the HCDA’s approval of Kaka’ako development.

    The shot is of One Ala Moana – a development that is not within Kaka’ako and not under under HCDA control.

    Details, just details.

  2. Peripheral: not surprising that you did not find anything about the UPhoenix story on the station’s Web site. Weekend updates on TV Web sites are spotty at best.
    Sometimes even the Star Advertiser runs behind. Super Bowl ended at about 5 pm Hawaii time. The paper’s Web site first reported the result at about 6:45 pm.

  3. The spin that they are putting on this is ridiculous. The morning liberal shows were saying how great it is that people will be able to spend more time with their families? So they are saying let the government pay for you to realx. As far as I’m concerned we are creating a mentality of citizens that depend on the government is to take care of the us. So you will have people cutting their hours, going on the exchange and also receiving subsidies from the government. This gives people no motiviation to better their lives, and will be reducing the size of the middle class even further. Heck, I’ve even thought of doing it, but I have more integrity than that.

    • There will always be some people who take advantage of any government program. That isn’t a reason for not having the program; it’s a reason for policing the program to weed out the cheats. But that’s just too much trouble for conservatives, who will quite happily sacrifice the legitimate needs of the vast majority just to be satisfied that the small minority won’t get away with something they don’t really deserve. That’s the conservative rationale for opposing any and all social programs.

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