Use the “inverse pyramid” structure
Go from the most important material to the least important, and from general points to specific details. Telling a story in chronological order usually isn’t the best way to inform readers. Many people read only the first few paragraphs of a story, so it’s important to start with the most vital information and add details farther down.
 "Writing News: A Quick Primer", MIT News Office
1. To represent as greater than is actually the case; overstate: exaggerate the size of the enemy force; exaggerated his own role in the episode.
2. To enlarge or increase to an abnormal degree: thick lenses that exaggerated the size of her eyes.
To create headlines, media must, at times, exaggerate.
Who decided there is a "crisis", and who has put that label in the minds of the public at large?
The purpose of media, is not simply to exaggerate breaking events to entire viewers, as my opponent claims.
I’m not going to claim that all MSM output is neutral and unbiased, because in reality it is not. Each brand of MSM has their own objectives, directives and guiding principles, along with select advocacy positions.
I soundly refute this assertion, and posit that the media need not exaggerate when the news stories are big enough.
Numbers cannot be exaggerated
Microsoft to Cut Up to 5,000 JobsSoftware maker's quarterly profit falls 11% amid weakening demand
 The Wall Street Journal, January 23, 2009
Microsoft a Window into Tech Sector's CrashThe bellwether will shed 5,000 jobs, its first round of layoffs ever, amid declining profit
 The Los Angeles Times, January 23, 2009
Deluge of Layoffs Hits U.S. Economy
U.S. companies slashed nearly 60,000 jobs Monday, adding impetus to the Obama administration's efforts to reach agreement on a plan to pump $825 billion into the economy over a two-year period...
 The Los Angeles Times, January 27, 2009
Markets Unfazed by Large Layoffs As Investors Accept the Worst
There is something to be said for a market that can take the announcement of more than 50,000 job cuts in one day and move forward with solid gains on the session...
 The Wall Street Journal, January 27, 2009
Tech Layoffs: The Real Numbers Aren't So BadA series of announcements suggest 35,000 or more tech-vendor workers lost their jobs this winter; the real figures are far, far less.
 Infoworld, February 11, 2009
Because announced layoffs aren't actual layoffs. "It's smoke and mirrors," says Natalie Petouhoff, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, "to tell shareholders they're doing what they need to do." The announced numbers include vacant positions and planned positions, so eliminating them doesn't actually result in anyone fired.
I claimed no such thing. The point I made is that a headline, the smallest distillation of the 'inverted pyramid', is inherently an exaggeration, as it must drastically simplify facts presented later in the story, to the point where it very often either overstates or inaccurately portrays the facts.
Is this an attempt to narrow the topic, and exclude the more sensationalist behavior of the mainstream media? If so, you might have chosen a more subtle term - I thought "top-flight" was a brand of golf ball.
The announced numbers include vacant positions and planned positions, so eliminating them doesn't actually result in anyone fired. And the announced numbers include layoffs that may occur later on.
…to tell shareholders they're doing what they need to do…
Where did those 'layoffs' go? Well, it turns out that the Wall Street Journal alluded to the real truth: "Microsoft to cut up to 5,000 jobs". And not immediately - over a three year period. In fact, many of those 'jobs' don't even exist at present, and for a 90,000 strong workforce, the planned 'cuts' are easily absorbed by normal attrition, turnover and on-going restructuring.
"Microsoft might be able to reduce headcount by that number in the next year and a half simply by not hiring in certain divisions," says Neil MacDonald, an analyst with Gartner.
Baltic Dry Index Drops Below 1,000 for First Time in Six Years
Baltic index sinks, shipping firms in troubled waters
UPDATE 2-Pioneer to exit flat TV market, cut 10,000 jobs
Hitachi to cut up to 7,000 jobs
Sprint Nextel Cutting 8,000 Jobs to Fight Off Slump
The first is that markets often rally when job cuts are announced
The second is that the cuts had already been factored in. The stock market moves roughly 6-8 months ahead of the “real world”
1. If a company provides a sensationalized version of accounts regarding its state of affairs, and the media outlet reproduces it, which entity is guilty of embellishment?
More than half of all EU citizens (54%) are “doubtful” about the true extent of the global financial crisis, according to a Eurobarometer poll published today. Scepticism was highest among northern Europeans, with nearly two-thirds of Belgians (64%) and three-quarters of Swedes (76%) believing that the problems may have been exaggerated.
words such as “slash” accurately convey the message that Microsoft has gone on a firing spree
2. Do you consider the firing of an existing employee of lesser severity than the cessation of hiring new recruits?
3. Do you agree that the counting of layoffs is an issue of semantics?
4. If you wouldn’t count layoffs on a single day as pertaining to that day, then how would you count them? Would you amortise them over a period of time perhaps?
This is an attempt to select only those media providers who fall under the category of MSM. In terms of viewership figures we can clearly draw a distinction between outlets such as Fox News, with daily viewership figures in the millions, compared to the New York Post with readership figures of about 600,000.
The LA Times source : Once again, the source accurately reveals and reflects the situation.
The LA Times source(2) : Yet again, the article accurately reflects the situation.
All media outlets rely upon presenting information in its most engaging or interesting form.
The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society.
In a recent survey conducted by Frost & Sullivan, the Growth Partnership Company, 91% of CEOs blame the breadth and depth of the current economic situation on the media.
"The media's manipulation of statistics, negativity, exaggeration, and doomsday forecasts have driven fear and panic among consumers and businesses alike," says David Frigstad, Chairman of Frost & Sullivan.
Economic statistics are often twisted and exaggerated. The fear of total economic collapse is perpetuated in the media to grab attention and sell more copies or attract more viewers or listeners.
The issue is not only the exaggerated facts, but the exaggerated intensity.
1. To represent as greater than is actually the case; overstate: exaggerate the size of the enemy force; exaggerated his own role in the episode.
2. To enlarge or increase to an abnormal degree: thick lenses that exaggerated the size of her eyes.
I would count layoff that actually occur on a single day as layoffs that actually occur on a single day, and I would count changes in long-term plans that may affect prior projections of job creation as a separate fact. Although a common ground for specific economic impact analysis of the two figures might be found, they are not the same thing, and lumping them together and calling them "slashes" or part of a "one-day crisis” is clearly an exaggeration.
44 soulslayer said: “All media outlets rely upon presenting information in its most engaging or interesting form.”
… the "societal purpose" of the media is to inculcate and defend the economic, social, and political agenda of privileged groups that dominate the domestic society and the state. The media serve this purpose in many ways: through selection of topics, distribution of concerns, framing of issues, filtering of information, emphasis and tone, and by keeping debate within the bounds of acceptable premises…
J.P. Morgan Buys Bear in Fire Sale, As Fed Widens Credit to Avert Crisis
Ailing Firm Sold For Just $2 a Share In U.S.-Backed Deal
In Rescue to Stabilize Lending, U.S. Takes Over Mortgage Finance Titans
In a single, historic day, Lehman Brothers have filed for Chapter 11; Merrill Lynch is poised to be acquired by BoA; AIG seeks $40bn emergency Fed funding. The fourth and third biggest investment banks are thus bust. Only JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs stand.
Lehman folds with record $613 billion debt
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Lehman Brothers Holdings is closing its doors with more than $600 billion of debt -- the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history.
Bank of America buys Merrill - $50 billion
CNN’s online Business section offered headlines such as “The end of Wall Street”, “Wall Street on red alert” and “The meltdown”.
 Ross Lawrence, "Financial free fall"
When the stories are big enough, there is no need for sensationalism.
Facts cannot be exaggerated
If person A fabricates a lie to person B, and person B passes the lie on to person C- who can we say the lie originates with?
Exaggeration would have been a seed overstatement in the figures- such as claiming that 20% of the workforce was sacked when only 11% were.
A headline which states “5,000 jobs cut at Microsoft” is not exaggerating
* The fact that all centers of power today rely on media and that all use sensory manipulations and simulations, along with story lines, rhetoric, and performances to sell audiences products, candidates and ideas.
* The fact that most media, today, from news to advertising, rely on spectacle, simplification and exaggeration to grab and hold audiences.
* The fact that the news media has become a part of the power and economic system that it is supposed to report on.
 Ken Sanes, "Principles of Media Criticism"
This debate isn’t about media’s role in society, or even what the media is capable of.
We know for the last eight years disaster capitalists ignored obvious warnings of a coming meltdown. They apparently planned it.
 Paul Farrel, "Wall Street's 'Disaster Capitalism for Dummies'"
"If you would like an empirical law of government behavior, it is that in a panic or threatened financial collapse, governments intervene -- every government, every party, every country, every time."
 Michael Phillips, "Government Bailouts: A U.S. Tradition Dating to Hamilton"
Economic amplifiers are the active components of economic engineering. The basic characteristic of any amplifier (mechanical, electrical, or economic) is that it receives an input control signal and delivers energy from an independent energy source to a specified output terminal in a predictable relationship to that input control signal.
The simplest form of an economic amplifier is a device called advertising.
 "Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars"
My opponent is missing the fact that I am not arguing that the media always exaggerate.
These obvious corollaries to the very nature of media reporting prove my case: to create headlines, the mainstream media must exaggerate.
But come on - "The end of Wall Street"? I would call that a definite exaggeration.
The End of Wall Street
Still trying to refute that point, huh? The verb phrasing of that headline implies a fait accompli.
My dear opponent, perhaps you think that the current exaggeration about "world-wide meltdown" is an isolated incident? Do you think that the media in any way exaggerated the stability of the economy, before September 2008, ignoring facts and warning signs?
America faces new Depression misery as financial crisis worsens
Bread Lines Seen in California
"headlines which, upon superficial examination, appear to be exaggerated"
[citation of Wall Street Journal "The End of Wall Street" article]
the result was the downfall of Wall Street
every time he tries to highlight a specific example of the media “exaggerating” headlines, it turns out that said headline can be justified with facts.
9/11 The Asian Boxing Day Tsunami The Iraq War The Financial Crisis
Can anyone remember a single example of the media exaggerating these stories?
Failing to report instability is not the same thing as actively disinforming people by claiming that the system is more stable than it really is.
WW2 was a unique event
"I believe the media exaggerates on a routine, habitual basis."
Judgment: Round 2: Ian McLean vs 44soulslayer: "Here Ye! Here Ye!, Read All About It!"
This was a tough debate to judge, as both fighters did an excellent job on presenting their arguments. However, there can only be one victor, and that is 44soulslayer.
Attempts to paint the MSM as taking creative license regarding all news stories.
This is a creative processes, as any journalism professor will tell you, with only occasional nods and glimmers of 'objectivity' involved.
Any journalism professor… Really? The vast majority of respected journalists in the MSM follow a code of ethics. Taking creative license with the facts of any news story is vastly frowned upon and generally results in the journalist’s loss of credibility and professional integrity, both within the eyes of his profession and the general public which he endeavors to serve without bias or reservation. Stephen Glass is a prime example.
While Ian puts forth an interesting, nay – entertaining premise, it is flawed at best.
Takes the time to closely scrutinize what constitutes MSM. In the process, he waylays Ian’s misconstrued concept of the inverted pyramid structure in news reporting and brings it back into proper perspective.
Also, he has done a tremendous job of setting the parameters of the debate in a different and altogether more realistic light then Ian.
The Opening Statement goes to 44soulslayer.
He seems to be on the defensive right off the bat. Attempts to narrow debate strictly upon print publication headlines.
The point I made is that a headline, the smallest distillation of the 'inverted pyramid', is inherently an exaggeration, as it must drastically simplify facts presented later in the story, to the point where it very often either overstates or inaccurately portrays the facts.
While I find this definition to be over simplistic, I will admit that it is a clever ploy to better bolster his stance. Nice move.
Also, brings up the fact that different news programs/publications may serve vastly different target audiences from generalized to highly specific. Furthermore, conspiracy theorists love the word agenda, especially when paired with MSM as it often equated as tainted.
He does an excellent job of comparing multiple viewpoints of job losses in the tech sector. By contrasting the actual headlines for two specific MSM publications we are able to discern the subtle spin placed by each paper. Also, introducing the analysis of a non-MSM industry publication brings a more nuanced perspective to this particular event.
Whoa! What do we have here?!?
It appears that 44soulslayer has outmaneuvered Ian regarding his tech sector job loss article comparisons. By actually comparing the headline to the content of each individual news story he is able to convey that the headlines are congruent with the facts presented therein and not exaggerated.
However, I question the following logic:
Microsoft sensationalized its own press release in order to forewarn shareholders of what they plan to do in the future. The MSM simply faithfully passed this information on to their audience.
While it is true that corporate PR departments are the ever faithful spin doctors, press releases are nothing more than panacea to stymie corporate ills during times of crisis management. As such, it is up to the MSM to sift the wheat from the chaff. That is not to say that the MSM misrepresented the facts in this particular instance. Rather, it is the way 44soulslayer’s explanation over simplifies this issue within this context.
Moving along, he does a great job of answering the Socratic questions posed.
Introduces two vastly different approaches to the Baltic Dry Index slump: one from a MSM source and the other a non-MSM source. It is apparent with this example that the MSM outlet has not taken pains to sensationalize the story through its headline, whereas the non-MSM one obviously did. He did a bit of cherry-picking events, no doubt, but a vastly effective method for making his point.
This was an extremely close round, and therefore a tie.
Has a fairly adept flair for talking smackage during the heat of debate. He makes it look so eloquent. Mental note to self: If ever thrown in the ring against Ian McLean, make sure to wear smack-proof body armor.
Back to the debate. Ian is quick to make grandiose statements such as:
…agendas of exaggeration…: exaggeration from corporations to position themselves as 'responsive' in the eyes of investors and the market, and exaggeration from the media, seeking to simplify events into a 'compelling narrative', potentially sacrificing objectivity and investigative reporting.
While he has certainly made an argument for the exaggerations that corporate PR departments are prone to delve, he has yet to make a compelling case for the loss of journalistic integrity within the MSM. In short, the talk is not matching the walk.
Let’s look at this little gem:
The answer is: the media doesn't portray 'the truth'.
It is quite amusing that Mr. McLean would use a source entitled ” Manufacturing Consent: A Propaganda Model” as a basis for this claim. Like most propaganda pieces, this book excerpt offers a few grains of truth cloaked heavily in conspiratorial spin. In other words, it is not a work without its own agenda or bias. I dare say, his argument may have been better served if he stuck by his highly intelligent prose and skipped this source entirely.
It is also interesting to note that his final source, Frost & Sullivan, pins the current economic crisis firmly upon the media. It is ironic that upon closer inspection, this bit of information is culled from a press release (can you say spin doctors) for what is essentially a big business consulting agency. It is a consulting agency that is no doubt trying to calm a jittery business market in an attempt to gain additional clientele. No bias here.
Makes an excellent point that neatly sums up the debate thus far:
Clearly fitting all that information into a headline is impossible- due to the nature of the inverted pyramid approach. A headline must be pithy and informative at the same time. A headline which states “5,000 jobs cut at Microsoft” is not exaggerating- it is a distillation of the factual information that needs to be disseminated.
He also does a nice job of placing McLean’s Chomsky source in better perspective regarding the media and its’ alleged claims of exaggeration. It certainly dulls the edge his opponent was attempting to hone with this source from the start.
Also, 44soulslayer does a remarkable job of summarizing the various events that took place during this economic crisis and how each was presented in the MSM through various headlines. His approach was both concise and enlightening, further bolstering his argument.
Round 2 goes to 44soulslayer.
It is surprising that Mr. McLean make the following two statements without any facts or source to back his claims.
The issue is selection of facts, and the context that is given to their rephrasing and interpretation. That's what headlines do. If you choose only biased sources for your news story, and don't perform objective investigative reporting, for purposes of creating compelling and simplified generalizations, then you are exaggerating certain sources and neglecting others. That's bad reporting.
True, this would be considered bad reporting if in fact he had provided any basis for this claim.
PR press releases are 40-70% of news content.
Again, this would be an interesting tidbit provided there was any factual evidence to back it up. As a judge, I’m compelled to ask if this is indeed and honest to goodness fact that he merely forgot to credit, or simply something he conjured from thin air because it sounds good. Unless this purported fact is grounded in some kind of supportable way, it cannot be accepted at face value.
A little further down, his second source from ” "Principles of Media Criticism" seems to back the premise of his argument. However, upon closer inspection it appears to be nothing more than another individual’s personal opinion, as it provides no basis or case studies for what it deems to put forth as fact.
Ian finally starts getting down to brass tacks by implicating capitalists for their role in the economic turndown and tying it in with MSM. I certainly wish he would have done this much sooner as it would have had a larger impact in supporting his stance.
Media outlets exist to create consistent categorizations of ideology within their target audience. The fact of those categorizations is valuable, because it allows for predictable manipulation. Manipulation is performed by politicians, corporations, capitalists, advertisers - those with agendas.
This is a point that should have been expounded upon early on in the game. However, he brings this up late in his third reply and only after he used up his allowance of five references that would have enabled him to strengthen this claim.
So far, he has deftly sparred Mr. McLean nearly point-to-point and has come out ahead.
I disagree with my opponent that the media exaggerated the stability of the financial system prior to the crash. Failing to report instability is not the same thing as actively disinforming people by claiming that the system is more stable than it really is.
This is a valid claim that his opponent has yet to effectively dispute.
44soulslayer also does a fair job of adequately answering the Socratic questions without giving Ian much ammunition to work upon.
The addition of human interest stories in the MSM as a direct result of the economic crisis was a smart move. Unfortunately it didn’t have the impact it should have due to 44soulslayer exceeding the number of sentences allowed from external sources.
Nonetheless, round three goes to 44soulslayer.
He spends a good deal (nearly half) of his closing statement in rebuttal without gaining any real ground. He was able to get a couple of good jabs in here and there, but little substantial enough to strengthen his position in any significant way.
Although, I must admit to being troubled by this sentiment:
Facts either buried deep in the article, where they're most often ignored, or facts requiring a level of research that the general public does not engage in. Nor should they - if that were a requirement, as it seems to be, it sort of undermines the entire raison d'etre of the mainstream media, doesn't it?
It seems that Mr. McLean is implying that the general public gleans its information strictly from the MSM headlines, and that the facts play a secondary role because they tend to be ”buried deep” (his personal opinion) and are therefore less influential to the public at large. Unfortunately, he fails to see (or at least acknowledge) that there is more to the MSM than just headlines. Headlines are nothing more than a light sauce over the meat and potatoes of a story.
Furthermore, this statement seems to be a direct contradiction to this nugget offered in his closing remarks:
The obvious motivation of mainstream media is to create headlines which are compelling to the reader, and create a sense of urgent need for their news-product.
Which is another way of stating that headlines are mean to be hooks that snare readers/viewers into investing their interest and personal time into the news-product a.k.a. story. However, this statement infers that it is the story that is prominent, not just a series of facts ”buried deep” that play a secondary role.
He makes an eloquent, albeit brief, closing statement. While it smatters a tad on the defensive side, it has its strong points that against a lesser opponent would be an effective hit out of the ball park.
Impressive. His points are clear, concise and wraps up his position nicely. He spends the vast majority of his statement making his case in a pragmatic manner, thus strengthening his overall position.
All in all, this proved to be one Hell of a debate and a great read. Kudos to both fighters for turning what could have been a very dreary bout into a disarming display of intellectual discourse.
In the end, though, Ian doesn’t quite throw 44soulslayer off his game. Therefore, the win goes to 44soulslayer.
Judgement for: 44soulslayer
This was a difficult debate to judge. To my mind neither fighter made any critical errors. In the end I had to simply go with the point that Ian McLean wasn't able to amply justify his position. Certainly there is literary license taken in the media. Sharp verbiage catch attention, but that is natural given that these are for profit organizations. In the end I couldn't see that any outright exaggeration in any of the examples, as the facts all seemed critically and accurately stated. So, in the end, while both fighters did an exemplary job, the edge goes to 44soulslayer in my opinion.
Judgment- Ian McLean wins the debate.
Ian McLean-comes out with a very strong opening post. He lays the groundwork for his argument, without locking himself into detailed promises.
44soulslayer- takes an opposite approach. Making highly detailed promises, which can provide quite a let down if the debate should move in a different direction. He does do an adequate job of countering Ian's opening, but gains no real ground beyond that, (due in part to spending a lot of time promising) and so the opening comes out pretty even.
Ian McLean- does a fine job both supporting his own claim in his opening statement, and refuting an objection to that claim made by his opponent with his illustration of exaggeration.
44soulslayer- opens with an argument that seems to distill to "well they could have exaggerated it more." But he does go on to shift the responsibility for the exaggeration from the MSM to the company itself cleverly using Ian's own argument to do so. Very impressive work by 44soulslayer. Well fought and very even first round.
Ian McLean- another truly excellent job. Ian also highlights a small concession from 44soulslayer that had slipped my notice in the last round. Giving him a slight edge in the debate.
44soulslayer-begins by trying to claim that knowingly printing an exaggerations does not really meet the topical requirement of this debate, the term he focuses on is "is exaggerating." I simply have to disagree here. He fails to refute the point made by Ian in that respect. If you knowingly print an exaggeration, you are also exaggerating. However he goes on to fight the idea of exaggeration further by reinstating the strict definition. He also wisely declines to argue against Ian's introduction of the role of media in society. He is right, it does stray from the topic in scope, and not allowing himself to be taken there is a very wise strategy. 44 attempts to retract the slight concession he gave to Ian in the first round, but I do not think it was adequate. Exaggeration can fall into the bounds of "presenting information in its most engaging or interesting form.” 44soulslayer scores a point of his own in this round however, and it is a solid one, finally driving home that when an event is big enough, the media does not need to exaggerate at all. The debate remains even at the end of round two.
Ian McLean- Another masterful post by Ian. He points out clear exaggeration "The End of Wall Street" to counter the ground gained by 44 in the last round, and reintroduces the role of media, very successfully I might add. Ian edges ahead again slightly in this neck and neck race.
44soulslayer- in this post, 44 tries to undo the "End of Wall Street" as exaggeration, but really doesnt. What he does is show a significant change, not really an end. It does not refute Ian's example of exaggeration. At this point, I think it is a given that the "MSM" is a broad term some times it does exaggerate and sometimes not. The question now becomes not whether the media exaggerates, but is that the case in this instance? 44 present the reader with the question;
Is it hyperbole to draw parallels between the modern condition of people in tent cities and those of times during the Great Depression, or is it an accurate and valid comparison?
But unfortunately, not the answer. What percentage of the population in hard hit areas WAS living on the streets during the Depression? How big an increase is this over the last several years prior to this meltdown? He is assuring the reader that this is accurate reporting, not hyperbole, but does not prove it.
Ian McLean- grabs onto the only two flaws I myself could find in his opponents argument, and plays them up to the audience. (As he should) He closes with a very good summary argument.
44soulslayer-does not repair the damage caused by those points, and offers his own very good summary argument.
This was an excellent debate. I was beginning to worry neither debater would make an error or leave an opening, and I would be forced to decide between two very nearly perfect cases. It was that close for most of the debate. Even the two points that have decided this case, 1) that the media does exaggerate, (Wall Street has not ended) and 2) that they have exaggerated in this event, were very slight edges to Ian McLean.
I am sorry these two were paired so early in the tournament, they both were final round caliber opponents. Congratulations to both debaters for an excellent job.
Debate goes to Ian McLean.
PR press releases are 40-70% of news content.
Again, this would be an interesting tidbit provided there was any factual evidence to back it up. As a judge, I’m compelled to ask if this is indeed and honest to goodness fact that he merely forgot to credit, or simply something he conjured from thin air because it sounds good.