Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Does this bother you as it does me?

I just got an e-mail alert in from my local paper:

Senate approves strong seat belt bill — finally

After years of debate, filibustering and arm-twisting, the Senate today approved a stronger seat belt bill. The bill would create what is called “primary enforcement” of the seat belt law.

But let's take a look at that headline/link. One of the principles I was taught and to which I've subscribed is that finally is one of those words you use very carefully because of the editorializing connotations.

Now, I understand edge and attitude. And this paper -- largely to its credit in a state that seems to have an inordinate number of trees that get in the way of cars and their now-dead drivers -- has been on a tear about this issue for years.

But I think this is wearing our editorial opinions on our news-column sleeves, and it gives me pause. (This exact headline also appears over the story on the paper's Web site.) You can talk about your Jayson Blairs and other n'er-do-wells. But I think the public actually forgives us for those, realizing they are aberrations as long as we respond effectively and firmly.

This kind of headline, however, seems to me more corrosive, spreading the harder-to-combat idea that bias and editorializing infuses itself into our news columns, tainting all that it touches. And it would have been so easy just to rewrite it:

Senate approves strong seat belt bill after years of trying


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