Accuracy in Media

In a new piece this week, Vice lies in the headline and presents a false narrative that it only slightly clears up at the end of a sentence seven paragraphs in.

Impressions are created by those headlines and openings. Those confusing details about reality can be left to later because they’re in that part of the story that doesn’t impact most readers, as they have stopped reading the article by then.

But it’s still possible to defend the piece itself, because those who would put forward that biased story can still say “But we said that!” Yes, you did, but everyone in the industry knows what you’ve just done – it’s only the readers out there that don’t.

From the Vice piece:

 “A Texas School District Just Voted To Ban Talking About Trans People,” the headline says.

“The Grapevine-Colleyville School District has banned discussions of “gender fluidity” and made it easier to ban books about race and LGBTQ topics,” according to the subhead.

No, actually it didn’t. Down in paragraph 7 – recall what we said about the pesky details coming after para 5? – we get this:

“The policies instruct district personnel and agents not to “teach, instruct, train, or otherwise communicate to any individual or group topics regarding sexual orientation or gender identity unless and until those individual persons or the entire group has fully completed the fifth grade.”

Now, we’re all in favor of age-appropriate education in all things. No point in upsetting toddlers by telling them Barney is extinct, after all, but we should point out that the dinosaurs are gone at some point. We’re also all in favor of age-appropriate sex, gender and relationship education.

The decision that has been made here is that discussion of that sexual orientation and gender identity is not age-appropriate before the age of 10 or 11 – fifth grade – and as that’s before the onset of puberty for the vast majority that could be seen as age appropriate.

Yes, of course, there can be arguments over what is taught and discussed at what age. There are such arguments. But making an age-appropriate decision is not the same as banning.

Vice ranks around No. 100 in U.S. news and media publishers. It gains some 28 million visits a month from that position. It also has a substantial overseas operation and the cable TV channel reaches some 60 million American homes, the YouTube channel has 16 million subscribers. This is an important part of the new media landscape.

But those old journalistic tricks are being used. Creating the false narrative through the headline and opening paragraphs is an old trick – that reveal of the truth in paragraph 7 is there to allow deniability, nothing else.




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