This Headline Gives Me a Headache

October 20th, 2010 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

By Tracy Dingmann

In the newspaper business, editorializing is supposed to happen on the editorial page, not in headlines on news stories.

But that’s exactly what happened in the Oct. 19 issue of the Journal with the headline on a story about combined reporting.

Combined reporting would require a corporation that does business in New Mexico but is based in another state – such as Wal Mart or Target – to combine earnings from all its subsidiaries in the same line of business for tax purposes. Such companies would then pay corporate income taxes to New Mexico on a portion of those earnings.

Proponents say combined reporting is a way to make corporations pay their fair share, and note that most other Western states require it. They say adopted combined reporting and capturing that revenue could go a long way toward closing New Mexico’s budget shortfall.

Those who oppose adopting combined reporting say it would amount to a tax increase for those businesses and claim that it might cause them to move operations out of New Mexico.

The issue was raised Sunday during a televised debate between gubernatorial candidates Susana Martinez and Diane Denish.

Here was the headline on the story by politics writer Sean Olson:

“Closing Loophole Or Punishing Business?”

Here’s the problem: The flashpoint words “punish” or “punishing” don’t appear anywhere in Olson’s story.

Moreover, while the pros and cons are debated in the story, nowhere does the anti-closing-the-loophole side use the concept of “punishment” of business as an argument against the proposal.

So the story was actually pretty balanced. But the headline sure wasn’t.

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One Comment so far ↓

  • Kara McArthur

    I agree with you, Tracy. I think the headlines in the Journal pretty consistently editorialize and/or mislead. Usually the real story in a Journal article doesn’t show up until the last paragraph, in fact.

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