Monday, March 31, 2008

HUD and the Despicable AP: How to Hype a Resignation

Does it matter much to anyone tat the HUD Secretary has resigned?  Don't be silly.  But look at the over the top way the despicable Associated Press put it:

"The Bush administration's top housing official, under criminal investigation and intense pressure from Democratic critics, announced Monday he is quitting."

Can you do AnY worse, "journalistically", than the above sentence.  I think it would be hard.  You get NO facts--not even the guy's name.  You get the pejorative word, "quitting", instead of themore neutral, "resigned."   You do NOT get the relatively neutral reference to this guy as HUD (Housing and Ubran Development) Secretary.  Instead you get the amorphous, and somewhat inaccurate, "top housing official."  For example, HUD has little to do with PRIVATE HOUSING.  Its main function is with regard to PUBLIC HOUSING, or publicly subsidized housing.  It has NOTHING tod do with private mortgages or banking regulation.  In other words, HUD had nothing, or very little, to do with the current "housing crisis", under any conceivable circumstances.  Then there is that innuendo about "under criminal investigation".  All in all:  how to do a modern day, reprehensible "journalistic" hatchet job in one sentence.  If you want to know all you need to know about modern "journalism", the above sentence tells you.

Has anyone ever heard of the HUD Secretary?  I haven't, except vaguelly.

Note the innuendo over being under "crminal investigation."  That is NOT an "official" term in the first place, and does not even represent a criminal charge (as to which innocence is supposed to be presumed).  The fact that this FBI "examination" of this guys "ties" to a transaction is now two years old would suggest a lack of evidence of criminal wrongdoing.  In other words, there is NOTHING legally relevant about the term, "criminal investigation".  You can't do anything about it. In one sense, EVERY PERSON in the country is constantly under "criminal investigatiion".  Ther term is merely a way of saying that a criminal investigating agency is actively looking at whether there is any reason to file criminal charges with regard to some set of circumstances.   One of my pet peeves about modern "journalism" is their attempt to make a term like this IMPLY WRONGDOING, as if the term is legally significant.  It is NOT.

Does this resignation tell you antything about the economy?  Of course not.  The HUD Secretary has little to do with the economy.  Would a different HUD Secretary have mattered AT ALL in the husing/credit crisis?  Of course not.

Who knows how well Jackson did his actual job (a job one suspects mostly has little to do with how HUD operates, as with most Federal agencies).

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