29 7 / 2012
I’ve been reading the NYT for long enough that I’ve read these pro-forma sentences many times, but they haven’t really sunk in until today; I’m using Erik Eckholm’s 3,200-word article about an abducted girl and her two mothers as an example, but there are surely hundreds of others out there.
In the fourth paragraph, we find this:
Isabella’s tumultuous life has embodied some of America’s bitterest culture wars…
And then, in the eighth paragraph, Eckholm decides he needs to spell this out even more:
The decade-long drama touches on some of the country’s most contentious social and legal questions, including the extension of civil union and marital rights to same-sex couples and what happens, in the courts and to children, when such unions dissolve.
My theory is that these weird sentences, inserted into long stories somewhere before the jump, are the NYT’s way of saying “sorry this story goes on so long, but it’s really important, and you really ought to read it anyway”.
The sentences appear in the NYT much more often than in any other paper: other publications tend to let their stories’ importance speak for themselves, rather than stepping outside the narrative to tell you that they’re Important.
I don’t think the NYT is more institutionally insecure than most other publications. But in this case, it sure looks that way. Or is there another explanation for these things?
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