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Journalist hints at possibility politicians will be candid

Posted by jsallot under Election 2008, Election 2008 Faculty links, Election 2008 Media commentary

Jeff Sallot

The politics page at globeandmail.com is featuring a story today headlined: Layton hints at possible Liberal-NDP coalition 

The lead says: NDP Leader Jack Layton refused Monday to rule out the possibility of entering an alliance with the federal Liberals to prevent another Harper government.

How many weasel words and phrases can we find here?

Hints is popular when the people being written about don’t  actually say what the headline writer wishes they had said.

Possible is another qualifier word. What else did Jack Layton hint is possible? I suppose that until the polls close Oct. 14 he can say that the New Democrats could possibly form a majority government.

“Refused … to rule out”  is another weasely formation.

I’ve been tempted to use the same phrase myself when politicians have been performing the dance of the seven veils.  But I prefer to cast the hinted at possibility in a more positive frame.  How about this? Jack Layton left the door open to a possible coaltion with the Liberals. It works better as a lead.

Reporter and editors actually hate these kinds of stories. They don’t deserve the headline play the Layton story got at globeandmail.com today. Yet they can’t be ignored until we start hearing politicians speaking candidly.

Jeff Sallot teaches journalism at Carleton University. He is a former Ottawa bureau chief for The Globe and Mail, a life member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery,  and has covered nine federal elections.