Monday, November 07, 2005

Mainstream Media Now ID-ing Rioting Youth (But Still Burying Lead)

This Associated Press news story about the violence in Paris over the last 11 days departs from other mainstream news stories in that it finally does identify the perpetrators as coming from mainly "Muslim" or "African immigrant" communities, which gives a different impression from earlier reports that "French youths" were rioting. Of course, it took 8 paragraphs for the reporter to get around to identifying the actors in this story but at least he got around to it.

Why does it matter? For one, it's a journalism basic to identify the "Who" as well as the "What", "Where", "When," and "Why" of a story. As basic as the inverted pyramid structure. So when the pros fail in the fundamentals of News Writing 101, it raises suspicions that they are hiding something and begs the question why this is so.

Identifying the rioters as Muslims or African immigrants tells the reader a whole lot more about the nature of this event than saying "French youths are rioting." Youths riot over won or lost football games. They riot at keg parties (at least they do in Boulder). They riot because they hate George Bush and he happens to be in their city (at least they do in Portland -- or try to). Identifying the perpetrators in the case of the Paris riots tells us that these are not spawned by vague "unrest" (a news speak term if I ever heard one), but by political or religious reasons. Considering that Europe and the U.S. have been targeted by Muslim terrorists in recent years, the question of who is rioting becomes crucial.

By the way, the Union for Islamic Organizations of France, identified here as France's largest "Muslim fundamentalist organization" has forbidden Muslims from participating in the riots. This piece of information is also important. Guess how far down the page it is buried.