Sleight of hand

NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls

That's the headline in the USA Today. The opening paragraph says:The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.But's it's deceiving (what a surprise).

The second paragraph begins:

The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren't suspected of any crime.

Then finishes with:

This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews. (all emphasis above is mine)


Note the words chose by USA Today to elicit the response they wish from the reader: secretly, reaches into homes, amassing, ordinary Americans.

This reporting seems to me to be intentionally deceptive to readers. Look, think what you want about these programs(and please consider that this type of survellance has been going on for millenia – google The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, the J. Edgar Hoover years of the FBI, the Nixon years, Project Carnivore, Project Echelon, and scores more – both known and unknown) the bone I am picking is about inaccuracy in reporting. There's an old adage in journalism that says "don't bury the lead". The concept of which is, don't put the primary point or thrust of the story in the middle or at the end of the story. The reader should understand the essence of the store in 1) the headline and 2) the opening paragraph (lead). Headlines are notoriously sensationalized now in order to attract the reader. This sexed up/tabloidesque intro rarely accurately describes the content of the story. Sadly, more and more, the lead of the story is also disingenuous. Not sexed up, just dishonest. I seem to remember from a journalism class I took, that most people only read the headline and first paragraph of any news story.

Another example of the media manipulating public opinion? You bet.

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