INSIDE THE BELTWAY: Make sure you read between the lines when it comes to decipering the real news story

The folks from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank are in town as this is written, and an IMF announcement triggered the need to analyze - more than ever - media headlines and treatment for what they say, and more importantly, what they do not.

The folks from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank are in town as this is written, and an IMF announcement triggered the need to analyze - more than ever - media headlines and treatment for what they say, and more importantly, what they do not.

The folks from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World

Bank are in town as this is written, and an IMF announcement triggered

the need to analyze - more than ever - media headlines and treatment for

what they say, and more importantly, what they do not.



This one in particular caught my attention. Years ago, I worked on a

proposal by major world banks to ease the debt of so-called ’emerging

nations.’ It turned out ’forgiveness’ was an X-rated word and another

plan was put in place; some spacing-out, but not much forgiveness.

Considering that many of these banks were the lenders in most cases, it

was not surprising.



But now, the headlines say ’Poorest Nations Get Debt Break’ and the lead

paragraphs talk about ’canceling’ some dollars 27 billion in debt so

funds that now flow to creditors could ’stay home instead to pay for

schools and clinics.’



Not so fast! As we move down the story a few paragraphs, it turns out

the poorest countries must follow IMF and World Bank guidelines on

refining economic policy. Watch for the riots to follow, if it turns out

food and fuel subsidies are to be cut and budgets balanced.



Economics apart, it’s a good lesson why print tells you more than video,

and thus why print advertising can reach a larger audience of people who

think about what they see.



Consider, for example, entertainment TV. Over the summer, minority

organizations led by the NAACP had the bad taste to publicly note that

of all the new shows on the major networks, not one had a featured

character who was non-white, yet this group - 25% of the population -

accounted for two-thirds of all US population growth in the ’90s. Both

Hispanic and African-American organizations began to mutter about buying

qualifying shares and even used the fearful word ’boycott.’



So the networks began to re-program, and new characters appeared. By

mid-season, we can expect to hear network executives proclaim victory

and claim to have planned it all along.



Television is the most audience-sensitive of businesses, especially the

media business.



In the 1970s, concerned about compelling evidence that TV violence

contributed to the amount of violence in real life, the Parent-Teacher

Assocation (PTA) wrote to the networks complaining and seeking a

reduction in prime-time violence.



The organization had the foresight to point out its chapters might call

for a boycott of advertisers of the violent programs. By the start of

the next season, violence was sharply reduced. Headlines welcomed the

reduction; you had to read the fine print to find the PTA.



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