Drama vs. information Ryan 18 Jul 2006

25 comments Latest by Keane

CNN and IHT have different takes on the same story.


CNN is high on drama and short on places or numbers. “Deadly strikes continue” where? How deadly?

“Attacks in Lebanon kill 30”

IHT is less adrenaline, more information.

25 comments (comments are closed)

FredS 18 Jul 06

Less information

Daniel Morrison 18 Jul 06

Exactly why I get my news from the BBC or CBC instead of US sources.

Kiwi 18 Jul 06

Hey SVN - this is great observation an all - but I gotta say that your blog is becoming a little unfocussed of late.

What I want to see here is information and discussion around your products, rails and web techniques - not commentary on anything and everything - even though it might be interesting.

I feel that the blog is becoming a bit pointless and where I used to wait for the next post …now I’m not quite so interested.

I get the distinct feeling that SVN is posting “something” because they need new content each day. What I want is quality over quantity.

Comon guys!

Sunrise update would be nice too.

ry 18 Jul 06


I have to disagree. Discussion about how information is displayed - and thus, by the person who cannot get the signal from the noise , how it is processed - is much more important than the techniques used to display it.

Mika 18 Jul 06


I have to disagree too. Look at the title of this blog. Signal vs. Noise. This post is exactly on topic.

Hubris Sonic 18 Jul 06

I have to agree with Kiwi, i would like to see more whining about what some people put on their blogs as opposed to what other people want on their blogs…

on a different note
what?!?! Deadly strikes are continuing!
[running in circles screaming]

jb 18 Jul 06

Come on, now. “‘Deadly strikes continue’ where?

Is it really that hard for your eye to move one single centimeter to see the big “Beirut,” in type just as large as the “Lebanon” on IHT?

Hubris Sonic 18 Jul 06

err… i think his point is that:

“Deadly strikes continue” doesnt say shit… however

Attacks in Lebanon kill 30… is much more informative…

but then maybe I am simple.

qwerty 19 Jul 06

I second Kiwi’s sentiment (after having raised it myself in the Pretty Propaganda thread). To be fair, I found the recent postings interesting and Fireside Chat is pure genius. But I avoid the somewhat unfocused articles like Fly on the Wall and the repetitive Recent Job Postings that try to cover too many topics (more is less) for my taste. Overall, SVN is still my favorite blog and I hope it stays that way.

George 19 Jul 06

News as entertainment = the death of democracy.

What’s most disappointing to me is that these decisions are not accidental.


“Hey SVN - this is great observation an all - but I gotta say that your blog is becoming a little unfocussed of late.”

I disagree - I most enjoy the entries that have a bearing on general design, rather than the nitty gritty details of web design. So I guess I’d say that they have a varied audience and question whether it is really necessary for them to have laser like focus?

J 19 Jul 06

Well, less information is a good thing according to the Get Real Philosophy(tm) right? :)

manuel 19 Jul 06

i guess someone at SVN now saw the short “the content i’ld like to see at the SVN blog” discussion and will talk about it with us in a future article, so lets get back on topic :)

- both headlines are both relativly short. 1:1

- both headlines contain a lil’ shocker (deadly vs. kill). 2:2

- IHT’s headline is still more informative

IF you take into concideration that they might pop up

in your newsreader as “headline only” 3:2

a concideration every up-to-the-latest-shit-technique publisher should take ;)

Jamie 19 Jul 06

I definitely get tired of the sensationalism of CNN and some of its counterparts, namely Fox News. However, I don’t see the big deal on the differences in reporting on this particular instance. Yes they are reporting on the same story and yes they are doing it differently. But is the number of people that died really the most important piece of information or is it the fact that people are STILL DYING, be it 30, 50, or 100? The information from CNN is different, not void.

And if I want more information, that’s what the rest of the story is for (or even the sub-headline). When I see a blog post called “The Filter:…” for the first time, I don’t just say WTF? I keep reading and then I get it.

Nick 19 Jul 06

Daniel, Brian et al -

IHT is a Washington Post company and its content is American. This conversation could ostensibly be kept outside of the “I’m a self-hating American” line of discourse, but that would be too much to ask wouldn’t it?

Mr. Kahn 19 Jul 06


The IHT is a NYTimes company.

Its involvement with the Washington post ended several years ago after a hostile taker over by the NYTimes.

Matt Turner 19 Jul 06

@Daniel Morrison - I Dunno, the BBC can be pretty sensationalist, especially with health it seems, bird-flu pandemic hitting the UK anyone?

New global warming theory points to ‘apocalypse now’ about once a month? Okay, so i’ve heard apocalypse now on the BBC news but they do seem to like these kind of stories.

The BBC title for this story was “Dozens die in fresh Lebanon raids”. A little alliteration going on there, nice.

Andrew Sidwell 19 Jul 06

The “alt” text of your second image is “CNN”, not “IHT”.

BradNelson 19 Jul 06

I can’t stand to read CNN anymore because of their focus on celebrities and their sensationalism.

My biggest pet peeve with CNN: bad puns in EVERY $@#&%-ing box-office story title! “‘Pirates’ sequel plunders box office again” Oh, ha ha, it’s a joke. Not funny.

FWIW, if SVN didn’t have posts like this and stuck only to promoting their products, I’d be long gone. In fact, there was a bit of a dry spell these last few months. This post is refreshing.

Seth Thomas Rasmussen 19 Jul 06

Yeah, just avoid shit like CNN. That stuff is dangerous. We’ve mixed the concepts of entertainment and news too much, and it’s time for people to start standing up for stronger distinctions. CNN, FauxNews and the like are out to titilate, to incite, to distract and draw your attention at the same time. They are generally not even news so much as commentary on the news, incredibly biased commentary, which of course may be fine for you! I personally find most of those outlets to be a worthless waste of time and energy, but if you can balance it out, then more power to you I guess. And of course there is no “pure” news. We’re all selfish individuals, and that doesn’t go away when we act as groups, but there is much room for improvement on this front.

Keane 20 Jul 06

I’m really not sure that the comparison between these two headlines is fair.

Leaving aside the obvious comment that CNN is brasher than IHT, I think that the CNN’s “DEADLY STRIKES CONTINUE” is a summary headline covering a group of stories about the Lebanon situation (“Thousands flee”, “Pounded from the air”, “Children airlifted”, etc.).

“Huge explosions rock Beirut” is the actual headline of the story (and, I speculate, the one more likely to appear in your news reader). *This* headline contains the ‘where’ information you’re after. It doesn’t contain the ‘how many’ information…but that really isn’t relevant. The story itself comments that there were ‘…no immediate reports…of casualties…but at least 12 people…died on Tuesday’. This is far more likely to be accurate than the IHT’s ‘30’ deaths, which they are reporting as fact when it’s almost certainly a best guess at best.

Oh, and “huge explosions” is more descriptive than “attacks”. Attacks could mean any of a number of things, from air strikes to tank barrage to infantry skirmishes to rioting.

Conclusion: it’s very difficult to write an unambiguous 3/4/5 word headline that tells the whole story!

Dave R. 20 Jul 06

Drama = Excitement = What Average American Wants

Information = What Average American Finds Boring

Welcome to marketing.

manuel 20 Jul 06

Keane said:

the CNN�s �DEADLY STRIKES CONTINUE� is a summary headline covering a group of stories about the Lebanon situation (�Thousands flee�, �Pounded from the air�, �Children airlifted�, etc.)

ok, thats great, but how should i know? it should say lebanon: deadly strikes continue then. that would make more sense at 1st look.

of cause, the “30” in iHT’s headline has a lil’ shocker-touch as well, but it gives more info about the “how big is the drama-level” than just the word “deadly”.

Keane 21 Jul 06

Obviously getting just the headline in a newsreader is a specific case — and probably one that news editors and subs are still coming to terms with.

However, as I said, I don’t believe that DEADLY STRIKES CONTINUE will appear in your newsreader.

It isn’t the headline for the story.

I think that the headline you’ll get is HUGE EXPLOSIONS ROCK BEIRUT (though I don’t actually know, because I don’t read the CNN — or really any other news website! — through a newsreader).

And if that is what happens, then it renders your ‘how should I know?’ argument void (unless you don’t know where Beirut is … but then if you don’t, you probably don’t know where Lebanon is either). Like I said, it’s unfair to compare the DEADLY STRIKES CONTINUE headline with the ATTACKS IN LEBANON KILL 30 headline. They serve different purposes.

Regardless, the purpose of a headline isn’t actually to replace the story so you don’t have to read the story. It’s to make you interested enough to read the story. In your newsreader, DEADLY STRIKES CONTINUE is as likely, if not more likely, to make you click. (Even though it doesn’t appear in your newsreader, as described above!)

And anyway, far more important than all that is the fact that there are deadly strikes continuing, there are huge explosions rocking Beirut, and there are (innocent) people dying, needlessly. That’s wrong.