January 4, 2017 Last Updated 8:12 am

The power of the headline, in print and online; is there a legal right to unplug from work?

Morning Brief: Media reporters do instant analysis regarding move by Megyn Kelly from Fox News to NBC, looking for deep meaning in a high profile job change (they really should stop it, though)

I worked with a headline Nazi for a number of years. He was adamant that all headlines should fit their space within a pica or two of the end of the line. Anything even a tiny bit short was considered a poor headline. The only thing that made the situation tolerable was that I was technically in the ad department and he in the special sections department – together we produced the weekly real estate section.

One other thing made the situation tolerable: he was brilliant and completely right about the value of headlines. He was, in other words, very old school, despite being rather young.

Even today, with TNM, I try hard to make sure the headlines are fit as if this website were print. It leads sometimes to perfectly fitting headlines that are actually rather awkward. I leave them awkward, knowing my old editor, who died a few years ago, would have appreciated the effort to make the headline fit the space.

In 2017, the headline will be… as corny as it will sound, in the headlines. Many journalists are finally figuring it out that headlines matter, and that many readers don’t actually read all the stories, just skim the headlines. This isn’t just an old growth of USA Today and shorter news stories, but actually is something brought on by web publishing. The Drudge Report is nothing but headlines, drawn from around the web, often rewritten to say the opposite of what the story actually says.

Headlines are powerful. No better example of this is Breitbart News.

At Breitbart, the headlines are the stories, with what follows often simply a rewrite of the AP story. All the rage is contained in the headline, while the story is often rather tame. Most important to understand is that the editors likely believe that the truth can be found in the headline, while the details may be less clear, less supportive of their preferred narrative.

Yesterday, journalists on Twitter went crazy when both The New York Times and The Washington Post seemed to buy into the idea that Donald Trump, through a tweet, convinced Congressional Republicans to abandon their effort to gut the independent ethics office. The stories made clear that constituents were flooding the offices of Congressman with calls, protesting the proposed move. But the headlines, and to a certain degree the stories themselves, seemed to give all the credit to The Donald. He spoke, they acted. Or so the leading newspapers seemed to be implying. (The Post’s senior congressional correspondent, Paul Kane, goes all in on the theory that one Trump tweet equals the power of 300 million citizens.)

This morning the NYT did it again. Read the headline below, then the story snippet – it is hard to believe they are they same story. They did this, too, to a story about the GOP backing down on their effort to gut the independent ethics office, originally giving Trump the credit. But the editors changed the headline for the print edition this morning – a sign, perhaps, that they still consider the web to be the early edition, with print being the final edition.

The New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt and Julie Hirschfield Davis:

Trump Says Intelligence Officials Delayed Briefing on Russian Hacking

President-elect Donald J. Trump said Tuesday that intelligence officials had delayed briefing him on their conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and suggested, with no evidence, that they might be buying time to assemble a more substantial case…

…It was not clear whether a meeting to discuss the hacking had been scheduled for Tuesday or, if so, why it did not occur. But Mr. Trump’s insinuation was that intelligence officials were intentionally withholding information from him. For weeks, he has dismissed their findings and strongly criticized the intelligence agencies, saying they cannot be trusted because they were convinced, incorrectly, that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the United States’ 2003 invasion.

Everyone wants to read the tea leaves concerning Megyn Kelly moving from Fox News to NBC. For Mathew Ingram, senior writer at Fortune, it means NBC is moving to the right. I actually think he is simply using the move as an excuse to remind readers that Kelly was a willing participant in many of Fox News’s darker narratives.

For Gab Sherman of New York magazine, the move talks more to what is going on at Fox News (see below).

Sadly, I think all this is really about how much we expect instant analysis from media reporters today. It leads to some rather embarrassing columns sometimes, though I think no one ever holds the reporters to account for being dead wrong. If they did, a few reporters would be out on the street today for declaring the Gannett-tronc deal all but completed.

New York Magazine, Gabriel Sherman:

Megyn Kelly’s Departure Is a Big Clue About the Future of Fox News

Sources close to Kelly told me today that her departure is an indication of just how unhappy she had become at Fox in the wake of her high-profile feud with Donald Trump and revelations she had accused Ailes of sexual harassment. Her relationships with Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity in particular had completely broken down, one Fox host told me. “Bill hated her,” the host said. As Kelly’s contract negotiations dragged on during her much-publicized book tour, things also grew strained with Rupert Murdoch, two sources said. One Fox insider told me Murdoch balked when Kelly asked for $25 million late in the talks. (A person close to Kelly disputed this, saying that said Kelly never asked for a specific dollar amount and Fox had been offering $25 million all along.)…

…The one thing Fox insiders are in agreement on is that whoever replaces Kelly will be a pro-Trump conservative. In the wake of Ailes’s ouster, some media observers speculated that 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch wanted to reposition Fox to the center, bringing it more in line with his moderate political views. But the selection of a pro-Trump host to fill Kelly’s slot would suggest that Fox is instead doubling down on its right-wing politics and planning to align itself with the new administration. After initially being hostile to Trump, Murdoch has made moves to curry favor with the president-elect. Fox insiders told me that Murdoch personally named pro-Trump anchor Tucker Carlson to replace Greta Van Susteren at 7 p.m.

I’m sure a number of readers will see this new rule as just another example of France’s nanny state overreaching. But this issue is a real one. I witnessed over the holiday break just how nerve wreaking it can be when one is tied to your phone, waiting in terror for a possible email. My guest was at the mercy of their boss throughout the holiday, and in fear of losing their job should they not instantly respond to an email should it appear. It ruined her holiday (and convinced her that it was time to look for a new job).

We are all tied to our smartphones these days, and many of us are constantly checking our emails. But are we required to do so? Should we be?

Photo: Checking Email by Phil Roeder used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

The New York Times, Alissa J. Rubin:

France Lets Workers Turn Off, Tune Out and Live Life

If the world does not envy the French enough already for their generous vacations, universal health care and fine food and wine, the arrival of 2017 brings this: a newly created “right to disconnect.”

Though ridiculed in some quarters as a ban on work-related email after hours, it is not quite that. But it is born of the enlightened view that it is actually beneficial for people not to work all the time, and that workers have the right to occasionally draw the line when their employer’s demands intrude on evenings at home, treasured vacations or Sundays with friends and family.

“Employees are more and more connected during hours outside of the office,” Myriam El Khomri, the minister of labor, said last year in justifying the need for the law.

“The boundary between professional and personal life has become tenuous,” and cases of burnout are becoming more prevalent, she said.

We take so many things for granted. The check out line is one of them. Ask anybody who shops at a grocery store what they would see at the check out line and they can tell you: candy and sleazy magazines. At Whole Foods and Trader Joes the snacks may be organic, and the magazines about yoga, but you get the idea – you know what to expect.

Apparently one woman in Detroit would like to change that.

What is interesting to me about to objection to magazines at the check out line is that this wouldn’t be an issue if Meijer, the store in question here, were to not stock National Enquirer and other tabs at the check out line. Their presence there might lead one to believe that these are high circulation titles. But the National Enquirer, for instance, has a total circulation of below 350K – this isn’t the UK where the tabs rule the roost. Its newsstand circulation is 250K, so it is completely dependent on those check out lines. So, if you want to snuff out fake news, one battle in the war might be to pressure grocers to upgrade their magazine selections.

Fox6Now, Katie DeLong:

Michigan mother on crusade to remove magazines, junk food from checkout aisles at Meijer

Jane Kramer created an online petition hoping the store will get rid candy and some trashy magazines in checkout aisles.

“Inappropriate reading material with nothing for kids to look at and just junk food,” she said.

Kramer said she never realized these items are not kid-friendly until she adopted her son a few years ago.

She avoids the junk food aisle, but she can’t avoid the checkout lane.

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