Journalistic spinning

A journalist phrases things to make Landis look like an innocent stander-by.

Headline: “Landis caught in war against drugs”

The article starts with:

American Floyd Landis became the latest casualty in the war against doping after a second drugs sample confirmed a positive test for excessive amounts of the male sex hormone testosterone during the Tour de France.

There is at the moment no credible evidence that Landis is not guilty. Yes, him and his associates have produced theories that would explain the abnormal testosterone readings while absolving him of wrongdoing. However, these theories are not credible right now. I’m not saying that they cannot ever be proved but right now they are just words.

So Landis cheated and his cheating was uncovered. That’s the best information we have right now and that’s what a journalist should go by. Why then the passive voice in the headline and the excerpt quoted above? The headline says “Landis caught in war against drugs” like one would say “I was caught in traffic” or “civilians were caught in the crossfire”. It implies that Landis did nothing wrong but just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong moment. The excerpt also makes it sound like he’s just “collateral damage” in a situation he did not bring about by himself.

Traditional media can keep deriding blogs as much as they want but by accepting this kind of spinning, the articles written by pseudo-specialists and other forms of journalistic crud as “real journalism”, they are digging their own grave.

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