I refuse the Express when I get on the Metro, primarily because I already get the print edition and don’t care to read stories twice. However I will give them credit – they do their best to mix it up by shortening articles, adding graphics, and now, completely altering the meaning of entire articles.
Today’s has a headline of “Justices OK Crack Leniency” over their article about the Supreme Court’s recent rulings on Kimbrough v. U.S. and Gall v. U.S. The – dare I say it – real newspaper gets it right, with a headline of “Justices Reinforce Leeway on Sentences” and a sub-header that clarifies: “Cocaine Disparity At Heart of 1 Case.” And in writing that headline they show all the ways Express gets it wrong.
The case arose because of strict guidelines for sentencing in drug cases that revolved around how much of the drug there was by weight. Or rather, how much substance there is in a little baggie, by weight. Because crack has a bunch of filler in it people were doing longer terms for amounts of drug that were about the same quantity of high. So some judges and areas balked and complained, hey, we’re already putting these people away for five times as long as we would be doing if they just got a job as a bus driver and ran over two women– why make it even longer because they smoke it instead of snort it?
Okay, maybe they didn’t ask it that way even if they should have.
So Express has used the word “leniency” when the underlying issue was one of equality. I guess you could defend the word choice – I’m sure they’d write a headline about how a mom contemplated beating her kid with a bat but decided for “a more lenient” spanking instead, yes? Their word choice also overlooks the fact that this is about the legality of enforcing sentencing guidelines upon judges – something that goes beyond crack or even drugs in general. Those guidelines could be about gun crimes, shoplifting, or darned near anything.
If you’re going to claim by publishing Express that it’s possible to say something useful in less space, you need to actually do it, WaPo.
This post appeared in its original form at DC Metblogs