Friday, January 18, 2008

A Straight Forward Approach to Slants

Originally, I posted this on November 2, 2005, but I decided to update it a little, hoping my writing skills have improved in the past 2 years.

Every day in the news media we are bombarded by reports that lean one way or another. Pro this, anti that, so to speak. Very seldom do we read, see or hear any type of news that isn't slanted. Even your relatives, friends and co-workers have said the coverage of a particular news item was so biased for or against a particular issue, they felt compelled to tell you about it. You may have sat there and thought, "Hey, I saw the same thing, on the same station, and I didn't feel it was as bad as what they just told me." Of course, we all have our opinions on just about everything, and sometimes we run into people who are just so animated over how the news is reported, they seem to lose track of exactly what they heard, saw or read, and, by inflection, they inject their own personal views that create a slant on the slanted news. Those who do the reporting tend to be pariahs in the minds of these viewers and they misconstrue what was actually said in the first place. A lot of it has to do with wishful thinking. As is the case now with Hillary Clinton, people either like George W. Bush or they hate his guts with a vengeance, so out of their mouths come some pretty nasty words. Of course, kinder and gentler words come out of their supporters.

A lot of times, someone believes deeply in a cause. Save the Whales! Causes can be twisted into political agendas because conservatives interpret conservation and animal rights organizations and issues as being liberal, for instance. It works both ways. Over time, too many issues have been highly distorted, when, in reality, it should not be the case. Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican president, yet he is regarded as the founder of conservationism and a true protector of lower life forms. Was he a liberal? For some odd reason, we seem to get confused and downright mean over issues that may affect us. Just mention global warming in a room full of Democrats. Do the same in a room filled with Republicans. You'll never hear so much passion, along with a heavy dose of bias.

Slants take on many forms, not always of a political nature. They can delve into the philosophical or religious views of the author, too. They could be based on one's own experiences. How many movie and restaurant critics have written bad reviews? Clearly, there's nothing political about those. Maybe you saw that movie and ate at that restaurant and you liked both. Who is right here? You or the critic? Below are three different takes on the same fictitious event. One is a straight forward report and the other two are slants. Each slant will infer something different. Read between the lines.

(1) A two vehicle accident occurred on Wednesday, at the intersection of Main Street and Vine Avenue, in downtown Orlando around 11 PM. One person did not survive. Dennis Walker, 15, of Orlando was pronounced dead at the scene. His father Michael Walker, also of Orlando, was transported to ORMC and was treated and released. The driver of the other vehicle, Scott Wilson, 22, of Taft, and his passengers, suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene. The cause of the accident is pending a police investigation.

(2) A 15 year old boy died in a two car accident on Wednesday here in Orlando. The accident occurred at the intersection of Main Street and Vine Avenue. Dennis Walker, of Orlando, was pronounced dead at the scene. His father, Michael Walker, also of Orlando, was flown by helicopter to the Trauma Center at ORMC. The driver of the other vehicle, Scott Wilson, 22, of Taft, and his passengers suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene. Mr. Walker had just pulled out of the parking lot of the First Methodist Church, where he had picked his son up from a Boy Scout meeting. An officer at the scene was quoted as saying, "I can't say for sure what happened, but, empty beer cans and bottles were found in the other vehicle." A witness said that the other car had just pulled out of Bill's Tavern, a block away, and was exceeding the posted speed limit of 35MPH. Blood alcohol levels have not been released and an official report will not be disclosed until the investigation is completed.

(3) An accident which caused the death of one person occurred at the intersection of Main Street and Vine Avenue in Orlando. Dennis Walker, 15, of Orlando, died at the scene. His father, Michael Walker, also of Orlando, was transported to ORMC. The driver of the other vehicle, Scott Wilson, 22, of Taft, and his passengers, were treated for minor injuries. There have been many accidents at this intersection over the past 10 years, according to state statistics. One person was quoted as saying, "This is ridiculous. We've protested to state, county and city officials about this for years. We've signed petitions. We need a traffic light here now! No one heeds the 4 way stop signs. At least two others have died in the past three years." An investigation is pending and weather did not seem to be a factor.

Do you see how easy it is to write a slant? You can slant a story any way you want to suit your own opinion and to get your message across. Today, the Internet is a bastion of free speech and there are millions of bloggers around the world who exercise that right, but it certainly doesn't mean it's all straightforward and true. It's not just bloggers. There are tons of websites waiting to sink their fangs into your brain. It's not just websites, either. Remember, here in America, a much too long (and long-winded) presidential fight is in full bloom and the candidates don't always smell sweet. You, the reader and listener, have to distinguish between what is real and what is a twist and even if you agree, it still doesn't mean it's right.

Of course, that's my unbiased opinion.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Purina Dog Food Diet

I was in the check out line at Wal-Mart the other day, waiting to buy a big bag of dog food. A pleasant looking woman was standing behind me.

“You have a dog?”


“No, I’m starting the Purina Diet again, although I probably shouldn’t. I lost 50 pounds the last time, but I ended up in the hospital, in intensive care with tubes coming out of most of my orifices and IVs in both arms.” I went on to explain that, essentially, it’s a perfect diet and the way it works is to fill your pockets with Purina nuggets and simply eat one or two every time you feel hungry. By now, I noticed a small crowd had gathered around to hear me. “The food is nutritionally complete, so I’m going to try it again. Besides, I like the taste.”

I watched her face turn from a friendly smile to one of complete horror. “Why did you end up in intensive care? Did the dog food poison you?”

“Oh no. I was sitting in the street licking my ass and a car hit me.”

Everyone was laughing. I wonder why she wasn’t.