Friday, July 6, 2012

Why Did CNN and Fox Misreport the Decision on the Health Care Act? No Thesis Paragraph

Here is a good lesson on the importance of thesis paragraphs. Both Fox and CNN immediately reported that the Court had overturned the Health Care Act. Why? Here’s Fox’s explanation:

We gave our viewers the news as it happened. When Justice Roberts said, and we read, that the mandate was not valid under the Commerce clause, we reported it. Bill Hemmer even added, be patient as we work through this. Then when we heard and read, that the mandate could be upheld under the government’s power to tax, we reported that as well—all within two minutes.

By contrast, one other cable network was unable to get their Supreme Court reporter to the camera, and said as much. Another said it was a big setback for the President. Fox reported the facts, as they came in.

With this statement, Fox was engaging in damage control.

 I would shift the blame to the Chief Justice. In his statement from the bench, he worked through his analysis from beginning to end, with the critical issue—taxes—at the end. The Court’s decision and its rationale were at the end of his statement. Suppose Justice Roberts had begun his statement with a verbal thesis paragraph in which he stated the decision and the reason for the decision. Fox and CNN would not have been misled.

When I once again emphasize to my students the value of the thesis paragraph, I will use this episode to illustrate my point.


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