“This Is a Clear Example of the Media Training Your Brain.” Not.

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

It’s the kind of conservative Facebook post you might roll your eyes at and move on, except it was posted just before last week’s murder of five staffers at a Maryland newspaper.

“Look at this….!!!” wrote the Montrose County (southern Colorado) Republican Party on its Facebook page, referring to a meme showing two editions of the Wall Street Journal with two different headlines about the same story.

“Same exact newspaper, same exact date, sold in different areas depending on the level of political parties in that area,” states the meme (on your right). “This is a clear example of the media training your brain people. Open your eyes before it’s too late.” [emphasis added]

Except it’s not the “media training your brain people.”

As explained by the nonpartisan fact checker Snopes, newspapers print different editions at different times during the day, and sometimes the headlines and content changes as stories develop:

This image was passed around on the Internet accompanied by the claim that the Wall Street Journal had deliberately published one headline, “Trump Softens His Tone,” in a pro-Trump market area in an attempt to sway readers away from the the GOP nominee, and the other headline, “Trump Talks Tough on Wall,” in a non-Trump market area to bolster support for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

However, these opposing headline editions were not distributed to different political or geographic markets, nor were they intended to influence voters.

This picture shows two editions of the Wall Street Journal published at different times of the day. The paper on the left came off the press early in the day, while the paper on the right was produced later in the day. Print newspapers sometimes undergo revisions throughout their daily runs and typically employ marks to distinguish the various editions — in this case the differing WSJ editions are distinguishable by the number of stars displayed in the masthead:

You hope that the Montrose Republicans remove the WSJ meme from their website, and I’ve asked them to do so. No response.

In any case, they’re a Colorado example of a problem that’s obviously stoked by conservatives across the country, starting with Trump and his “fake news” propaganda.

They’re not only trashing the profession of journalism, which is bad enough given how much we need reporters to hold Trump and every other politician accountable.

But they’re also putting working-stiff journalists at risk. I’m not going to blame the deaths at the Capital newspaper in Maryland on the rhetoric of conservatives. But it creates a hostile climate for journalists, to be sure, which is not deserved or supported by the conservatives who are doing the attacking.

And, again,  it de-legitimizes the honorable profession of journalism.

Take Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, who said last month the media wants conservatives to “fail.” His evidence for this? Zippo.

Gardner has also said, without evidence, that the “press” is biased against conservatives like him. And he blamed the media for Mitt Romney’s loss to Obama in 2012.

If you watch FOX News or follow politics at all, you know that evidence-free news-media bashing plays a leading role in the Republican playbook, going back way before Trump.

So you wonder what conservatives have to say to the journalists in Maryland, like the Capitol newspaper’s website editor, who defended his besieged profession after the shooting last week. The Washington Post reported last week:

Jimmy DeButts, an editor for the [Maryland newspaper’s] website, published a tribute on Twitter about the craft of his fellow journalists, with a nod to the struggles of many local newspapers to continue working under tough economic conditions.

“There are no 40 hour weeks, no big paydays — just a passion for telling stories from our community,” DeButts tweeted. “We keep doing more with less. We find ways to cover high school sports, breaking news, tax hikes, school budgets & local entertainment.”

DeButts added: “We are there in times of tragedy. We do our best to share the stories of people, those who make our community better. Please understand, we do all this to serve our community.”

Maybe the Montrose Republicans, Trump, Gardner, and other conservatives think they’ll maintain power by undermining journalism.

I’m hoping journalism–and our country–prevails, and I read about Trump’s and Gardner’s demise in the newspaper.

25 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. JohnInDenver says:

    I'm betting the Montrose Republican Facebook post wasn't the creator of the idea and would further bet the original source was not credited.

    Perhaps someone more skilled than I can come up with a short, pithy response to clarify what sort of media the Montrose Republican's apparently would appreciate:

    * tending to push a particular favored politician or political party.

    * inaccurate or incomplete … WSJ editions were 1 September 2016, before and after Trump gave his speech about his time with then Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

    * unoriginal. Montrose Republicans show the link back to 3 people:  Peter Jennett ["founder at Warriors Kingdom" is with Karen Dattoli Kouyoumjian ["Evangelist"] and Kimberly Dawn Thomas Manning. [Worked at Pastor Evangelist and Outreach] Of course, they had nothing to do with creation of the meme.

  2. Davie says:

    Did electricity just arrive at the Montrose Republican Party?  Why else would they only NOW post a story that was debunked two years ago, then reposted in 2017 as a fresh conspiracy?

    It's almost as bad as Trump's weekly recounting of his Electoral College numbers, and our own Gerbils going on about Hillary's email…

    They really are hard up for material to keep the rage fires burning among their low-info base.  Pretty soon, they'll inform us that Sherman has burned Atlanta!

  3. gertie97 says:

    It'll come as a shock to the people of Montrose County that they are in southern Colorado. Really, Jason?

  4. Negev says:

    While I see both headlines as accurate, I cannot help but ponder the logistics of producing both headlines the same day. The legitimate differences in headlines came after a speech held in Phoenix at 6:45pm local time, or 9:45pm Eastern time, after which would require a new printing and nationwide distribution to meet the same day criteria. This is a remarkable accomplishment by any standard and I commend the WSJ for such a feat in the name of journalistic accuracy. The WSJ does however cater to regional markets if not with their content at least with their advertising, so it would be reasonable to assume you get a different paper in different markets. 

    I am not supporting or condoning the "training your brain" conspiracy theory of the Montrose right wingers, however I find it difficult to comprehend who at the WSJ would justify a reprint of the same day paper at 9:45 pm and how it is physically possible to distribute a hard copy of this update in the remaining time in the day. I can't imagine this headline was important enough for such a endevor when it could just have easily be printed on a 7a.m. distribution the following day. 


    • Davie says:

      It's called the 2 star edition and the 4 star edition.  Newspapers have been able to do that for a couple of centuries.  But to the uninitiated, I suppose any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

      Probably explains the perpetually shocked expression on Republican faces when facts challenge their belief systems.


      • Negev says:

        I am certainly the uninitiated. Can you enlighten me on how a company gathering information at 9:45 pm in NYC produce 2,134,150 copies of a newspaper and distribute hard copies nation wide by midnight? I find it magical indeed. 

        I certainly don't care if they modify or intentionally manipulate opposing headline editions and distribute to different political or geographic markets to influence voters. In fact, as noted in my prior statement, they openly display their segmented distribution areas. I can believe and understand that occurs, on both sides, and has been that way for centuries. I cannot fathom why a newspaper would reprint and distribute so late in the news cycle such a meager modification on this occasion, when historically they have a Corrections & Amplifications page which generally covers such changes on the next day. 



        • MichaelBowman says:

          You realize the Wall Street Journal I read in Los Angeles isn't printed in NYC and shipped to Cali?  The magic electrons find there way from the Big Apple to the Left Coast in seconds and a printing shop here circumvents the three-day ride?

          We only received the Rocky Mountain News once a day in the 51st state…but didn't they at one time have a morning and evening edition? 

          • Negev says:

            Indeed, I do. WSJ actually has 26 printing plants and is fully capable of nationwide printing. It also is published 6 days a week. That being said, their stated response is that the news changed from a Presidential speech in Phoenix which occurred at 6:45 pm. Reporting is based in NYC, which would be 9:45 pm that they get the info. If they change a headline, for whatever reason, within 15 minutes of the beginning of a speech, in NY and instantly produce the 2,134,150 copies they appear to distribute, at every printing location they own nationwide, and have them loaded on trucks, distributed to retailers, unloaded and on the shelves within a hour, they are looking at 1:15 of sales in the 10:45 time frame in NY, and 4 hours of sales on the West coast. That is indeed, incredible. I doubt very highly this happened. 

            My point is that the excuse they made as a coverup is worse than the alleged crime. OF COURSE they write and cater to different markets. Who cares? Some right wingnut Montrose Republican can hoot and haw all he wants, its not even questioned that's how it works…for right and left wing rags everywhere. 

            …but to respond to the pissant accusation by saying you created a freaking miracle of journalistic integrity and physically incredibly infeasible and fundamentally irrational feat to remedy the situation only makes me think the jackass in Montrose is on to something. 

            Just say you write to different markets. Who at this point would doubt that? 

          • Gray in Mountains says:

            I think I can remember the Rocky having more than one edition regularly. One more west slope and New Mexico.

        • JohnInDenver says:

          In this case, Negev, the newspaper had one story covering the meeting from the day, one covering the speech that followed the meeting. In all likelihood, the hard copies dated the same were gathered at two different locations on an air route.

          WSJ (and other national papers) have multiple print facilities scattered around the country with high speed printing up to 100,000 pages per hour.

          There are offset printers capable of producing 16 pages with up to 12 colors at 30,000 per hour.

        • Davie says:

          I linked the complete explanation in an earlier response.  You are welcome to read it here.

  5. Negev says:

    I read that and appreciate the link. I find it odd that they would go through the effort to change such a benign headline at 9:45pm eastern time with little difference in effect from each other, especially since they don't do it for much more important headlines, like say for example, 9/11/01 was not reported on in the WSJ till the following day, and they had literally all day to do it. 

    Still I don't side with or support the conspiracy notion of the Montrose republicans. I would just think a paper who at the time was cutting costs in response to plummeting ad revenue, that they would consider a new headline the next day rather than printing another so called "daily" paper at effectively the 11th hour.

    Is it a newspaper faux-pas to admit to catering news stories to different market sectors? I mean we all know journalism died with the Ted Turner 24 hour coverage phenomenon of the 80's, so in terms of consistent opinion no one really expects unbiased media coverage, right? 



    • Davie says:

      I can't speak for the WSJ publisher/business manager regarding when/how many editions to push on a daily basis.  But microtargeting editions according to political demographics on a daily basis makes even less sense.  Especially if the same reporter/editor writes the update (hmmm, I'm really biased, but now I have to change hats and pretend to be biased the other way?).

      If you watch the Denver Post's online editions, you'll see headlines and stories being updated multiple times a day.  No microtargeting involved.  Can they afford to push multiple print editions each day?  I have no idea, but yeah, probably not.  WSJ is a stronger paper financially.

      It just seems to me that you don't think print news gets more than one shot a day due to impossible logistics.  Well, as the linked explanation from the expert shows, that wasn't the case, and that misunderstanding of the actual process by non-insiders with a conspiratorial bent just keep running with this bogus theory.

      • Negev says:

        Actually, your source is from Quora:

        Quora is an information exchange site that discourages low-quality answers and requires users to use their real name to sign up. … However, as anyone can answer your question, and there is no machine that magically removes all wrong answers,Quora cannot guarantee that the people answering your question will be right.

        That being said, your "expert" is far from that with accolades totalling some magazine editing and pocket travel guides, so I would not put all my eggs in his basket. Moreover I have no problem accepting online updates multiple times daily as it is a single source and blasted through the interwebs with a simple keystroke.

        But in this case, as I type its 6:45pm. The same time the Trump speech in question started – anyone interested in the content of the speech would listen to the whole thing (who knows what he is going to say and if your reprinting, don't miss the "kicker"), which was 1:15:53 total, putting reporting time at approx. 8pm mtn time. 

        I am no expert either but if you can make such a minor, single story headline modification to a nationwide, printed and distributed publication in 4 hours, while maintaining the next days print schedule, you are an amazing and stunningly effective print media company and I applaud them.

        I just wonder why the did it on such a piddly dink story and not 9/11?

        I am in no position to demand or request anything from any of you, but just on your own accord thoughout your daily business see if you can find a print media story, anywhere, anytime that has a story that broke between 6-8pm the same day it was printed.  

        Why would microtargeting make less sense? They already are printing 21 microtargeted areas anyway, so why not cater to the demographics they serve? Is this a bad thing?

        Again, I do not believe the bogus conspiracy theory of the original post here. The tinfoil Montrose republicans are batshit crazy to think the media is "training your brain", so please don't think I am defending their position. I am however very sceptical of the proposed rationale of the WSJ defense and the sheer audacity of the response lends credence to the nutjobs accusing them. 

        Take the politics out of it and think for yourself for a moment about what you support as a reasonable answer: They cater to their targeted market base to sell more papers, or they stop everything, change 5 words in a 2.1 million unit circulation, reprint, distribute nationally and sell a daily paper for the second time in a day for a journalistic "scoop" on a ho hum story, in 4 hours. 

        Neither answer is wrong, but come on, man. Really? 



        • MADCO says:

          TOo many words to not care

        • Davie says:

          Man, that is one horrendous case of verbal diarrhea you got there! The guy that will tell you that you are full of it is off celebrating his 50th anniversary with the love of his life, so probably isn't monitoring this site.

          If you can't accept the obvious truth, you should take it up with V'ger who has decades of newspaper experience who will laugh in your face at your ignorance.

  6. Voyageur says:

    Your time line fails Negev, for two reasons:

    Important stories or speeches are often distributed to the press, in advance, embargoed for release at the time of the speech.  Even when the speaker ad libs, the rule is that the early release is still valid.  The writer may update as needed with a new lead, but the body of the story doesn't change.

    Headlines are changed all the time — sometimes because of new information but often because the layout changes.

    A given size head has a specific "count".  Trump stinks! Counts 12 with the capital T and m as 1 1/2 and the t,i and! A half count eac h

    Other breaking news may cause us to use a larger or smaller type size, change from two column to three or vice versa, etc. Yielding a longer or shorter count.  DJT stinks! is 10

    Overpowering stench of Trump is 27 1/2 /p>

    Trump flails Flake is 16

    Trump hits GOP critic is 19 1/2gives more information but a subtle shift.

    I've written thousands of headlines and never once took the ideology of a target audience into account — although as an editorial page editor, the articles themselves reflected those concerns.

    So, in closing remember a 6 p.m. Speech in Washington opens at 3 p.m. In Los Angeles, but major media outlets probably had the text by noon la time so they would have time to write it by deadlines.

    As a UPI sportswriter I prided myself on clearing 300 words on our national wire within 5 minutes of the end of a game.   To do that, I started writing at halftime and had most of it set in tape for transmitting by the 2 minute warning.   Even if the last play won or lost the game, I just retopped and picked up my preset material clearing the entire 300 word account to the office of every major newspaper in America in five minutes!

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