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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Are There Any Hookers In NYC?

[reprint from Feb 06, 2010]

I recall this story I read a long time back.

The Pope was invited to visit the US. There were no planes in those days. He boarded a ship from Civitivecchia for NYC. During the voyage the Pope was briefed on how to handle the US press.

They were very pushy and would distort words to get a scoop and mileage, he was told.

So to counter them each evening the papal aides would throw questions at him and he was trained on how to respond to them on his feet. One trick he was taught was to repeat the question to buy time while he mulled a proper response in case he found the question perplexing.

Finally the ship berths, gangway is aligned and the Pope descends. At the foot is a hoard of press reporters and photographers and each one is shouting questions at him. Out of the melee a loud voice booms 'Your Holiness what do think of hookers in New York?'

This perplexed the Pope. To buy time he rhetorically repeated 'Hookers? In New York?'

Next morning's New York Post's lead head was:

Pope's First Query in the US
Are There Any Hookers in NYC?


On News Coverage & The Art of Reading Between the Lines

This post is prompted by a comment by cynical nerd on Another Occupying Army and from the article and comments on One Simple Rule For Improving Your Writing.

The cartoon disturbances would not abate any time soon. (My personal views? The reactions should be non-violent and legal.)

I am picking the coverage from BBC for the coverage of today's protests in Pakistan's largest city Karachi which is controlled by Muttahhida Quomi Movement. MQM is headed by Altaf Hussain from exile in London. He has an iron clad control over MQM.

(If you are familiar with Mumbai politics Altaf Hussain enjoys more power and support in Karachi and areas of Southern Sind today than was enjoyed by Bal Thackeray in his hey day.)

Check out the BBC coverage of the protests in Pakistan Fresh Pakistan cartoon protests.

It begins:

Several thousand people have protested in Pakistan's Karachi city over the publication in the West of cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad.

In the fourth successive day of demonstrations, tens of thousands of protesters joined a rally called by religious parties.

At least five people have died after protests against cartoons across Pakistan turned violent this week.

So far my only concern would be this: a good reporter would have emphasised the real news behind the ongoing protests. This protest was peaceful unlike others. The organizers had appealed prior to the protest to ensure that the protest remained peaceful. (I monitored ARY and Geo TV Networks and some local papers)

Only if you scroll down to the 12th paragraph will you read from this coverage:

The protesters disperse peacefully after the demonstrations, reports said.

(This is a quote - it did say disperse — very poor editing!)


It is interesting to read and compare the coverage of the same event from different sources. And it helps to develop the art of reading between the lines.

I for one do not believe there is any bias free or unprejudiced coverage anywhere. There cannot be. We have our prisms to look and filter events with. And wittingly or unwittingly the slant happens.

What we can do is to compensate using our judgement. And try to be fair.

The BBC news I quoted can be fixed easily by:

1: Adding one word in this paragraph:

Several thousand people have protested peacefully in Pakistan's Karachi city over the publication in the West of cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad.

Why was it overlooked? BBC slant? Poor editing? Unskilled reporter or editor?

2: The twelfth paragraph I have quoted from the news report should have been moved up to the third.


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