Which One Is The Lead?

In this article in the Daily Dartmouth, Megan Spillane ’06 interviews one historian who thinks the Iraq war will decide the election. This is a hot-button issue, and many would doubtless be interested in a new take on the election.

The article nevertheless starts with perhaps the least interesting paragraph of all, describing the professor’s background: “Montgomery fellow and renowned presidential historian Robert Dallek, who will lecture Tuesday in Filene Auditorium, shed light on the current administration and the 2004 presidential election in a recent interview with The Dartmouth.” Apparently, that the Daily D conducted an interview “recently” comprises the meat of the story.

The most interesting portion of the article, and quite arguably the most newsworthy, is Mr. Dallek’s take on the key issue of the campaign, dumped unceremoniously in the second paragraph: “Voters’ judgments of the continuing violence in Iraq and of the Bush administration’s ‘inaccurate or false assumptions,’ will determine the outcome, according to Dallek. ‘The Iraq war will be the determinative influence,’ he said.”

This violates a credo of news writing, which dictates that feature articles should start with something interesting to draw readers in. Instead, this feature attempts to start like a news piece, and unsuccessfully so. This is like starting an article on Nixon’s “I am not a crook” speech with, “Richard Nixon, elected into office in 1968 and again in 1972, when he won by a landslide, spoke to a national television audience last night.”

The article presents only Professor Dallek’s point of view. Ms. Spillane neglected to point out other possible election issues, like the economy, and she cited no voter polls on the same topic. No spokesmen from either the Young Democrats or the College Republicans was given a voice. That the Democrats seem to be gambling on the economy being the big election-year issue was equally overlooked. Along the same lines, Ms. Spillane left out any mention of the events in Iraq; recent improvements like the handover of power have improved President Bush’s standing, while continued violence hurts poll numbers. The lack of analysis makes it more of a press release than a journalistic endeavor.

Based on this piece, one would naturally conclude that the election was the President’s to lose. This is most obvious when one notices that Ms. Spillane left out a glaringly key detail: John Kerry, the popular Democratic challenger to President Bush, is not named once.