Thursday, January 4, 2007

Gazette headline gives subtle dig at GOP-controlled House

This morning's edition gives a nice example of the way that the headlines written by the editors at the Billings Gazette give subtle shifts of tone that can affect the casual reader's impressions.

The major front-page headline reads: Party-line vote belies talk of bipartisanship , with the subtitle of House rejects move to alter committees on Legislature's 1st day.

The story then goes on to say that House Minority Leader John Parker, D-Great Falls gave a "gentlemanly speech on the spirit of cooperation," followed by a Democrat proposal to change the composition of House committees from those assigned by House Speaker Scott Sales (i.e. add more Democrats to nearly every committee.)

The shocking vote that resulted was a party-line vote (with Rick Jore voting with the Republicans) of 51-49 to reject the Democrat proposal.

The vote was of course a set-up by the Democrats to show on the first vote that Republicans weren't going to cooperate with Democrats.

The proposal was not a very friendly and bipartisan-spirited action on the part of the Democrats, but that will not be the subject of this post.

What is worth noticing is the different ways that the four major Lee Enterprises, Inc. newspapers in Montana headlined the same front-page story written by Jennifer McKee for the newspapers of that chain.

The Helena Independent Record gives the accurate headline of Party lines quickly drawn on day 1.

Both the Missoulian and Butte's Montana Standard use similar simple headlines: 2007 Legislature opens in Helena and
2007 Legislature convenes.

The headlines speak for themselves in terms of how the same story can be presented to different effect. The Standard and the Missoulian have even-handed but admittedly bland headlines.

But the Independent Record's headline shows that a headline can convey the intensity of the impending legislative war in Helena, yet do so in a neutral way.