Get out your thumbs
On Twitter, @stevebuttry was not impressed by a tweet from The Washington Post late last night: “News alert from WaPo: A year from 2012 election, U.S. electorate is frustrated. WaPo rules on big story that broke just after midnight.”
Unable to let that alone, he followed up: “Next WaPo news alert? U.S. electorate likes chocolate? NFL fans like football? Facebook users like social media?”
He is making fun of a tweet that is the equivalent of a headline, and I, as a longtime headline writer, am a little touchy. He should understand better, after his years in the business, the kind of service a headline can perform. In this case, if the headline fulfills its basic function and identifies the contents of the article accurately, the reader can expect a tedious belaboring of the obvious.
And indeed, a quick look at the article so tweeted reveals that it is—please excuse my introducing a term of art—a thumbsucker.
I read the first page of the online version, and there was nothing in it that I did not already know. Nothing in it that I had not known for weeks, or even months. Nothing in it that small children do not know.
The Post evidently underwrote some kind of poll that provides the basis for their startling revelation, but I didn’t get that far. It was perhaps on the second page of the online version, but the writers—three of them to do this heavy lifting—had already gone 650 words without saying anything of substance. Throat-clearing that extensive tends to indicate either authorial self-indulgence or an attempt to conceal how little is actually on offer.
You can read it. You tell me.