Newspapers That Don’t Tell The (Whole) Truth

Ahoy there, mateys. Tis I, Pontius, returned from my diplomatic mission to Somalia where I gave the people a grand old dressing down for besmirching the name of pirates everywhere.

Today I speak to you of news organs that are parsimonious with the truth. For as much as we like to believe what we read, it sometimes happens that what we read has been written to present only part of the truth.

I bring as exhibit A, the illustrious Newsmax appearing in a box to the right of this very article. Newsmax appears to offer readers of the Times of Israel an alternative source for important news that ToI may simply not have the resources to report. This is a fairly common arrangement where one news provider will pay another for sending traffic based on links or widgets or somesuch.

What struck me this morning as I perused the widget was the unusual slant Newsmax had given to one of their stories.

‘Butler’ Ticket Sales Plummet by 30 Percent

Your correspondent, Pontius of the clan Piratical, is nothing if not a close follower of US box office figures and I couldn’t help but be startled by the use of that word ‘plummet’. Plummet signified a calamitous fall that cannot end well. Plummet suggested a story at direct odds with what I knew and, I hate to be persnickety here, with the facts.

See this article here at the non-politically aligned Box Office Mojo that lists the top 400 second weekend drops since 1982. You will find global smash Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 plummeted in its second weekend by 72 percent. The final part of Nolan’s epic take on Batman, The Dark Knight Rises, plummeted by 61.4 percent. And, opening in the exact same weekend as The Butler, superhero sequel Kick-Ass 2 plummeted by 67.2 percent.

In fact, to the trained eye The Butler didn’t seem to plummet at all. Rather it retained its spot at the top of the box office chart with a remarkably strong hold on its audience. The industry calls this having “legs”. It means the movie is a hit and will continue to perform well in the coming weeks, making a profit for its investors with a fair shot at awards glory later in the year.

Why then, gentle readers, was Newsmax so keen to paint this objective success as a rank failure. To understand that, you need to understand a bit about Newsmax and the movie The Butler. The movie includes a sequence where two-time Academy Award winner Jane Fonda plays former First Lady, Nancy Reagan. Newsmax doesn’t like Jane Fonda’s politics. Er… that’s it.

Newsmax is an unashamedly conservative news organization. And that’s just dandy. They surely have nothing to be ashamed of… except when they report news badly because things haven’t worked out the way they wanted. Newsmax wants The Butler to fail. So they reported that it did. Not one of the facts in their article is untrue, but the devil is in the details and whichever devil decided to place the world “plummet” in that headline has convinced this pirate that Newsmax values its agenda more than its journalistic integrity.

If they’re willing to play games like that with something as insignificant as a movie’s box office, imagine what they are doing to stories that really matter.

May all your widget perusing continue in good faith. Ahoy!

About the Author
For years, Pontius was a model citizen generously overpaying for TV companies to show him ads between reruns for shows he never liked. But then, like Walter White, he just broke bad. These days Pontius Pirate is beholden to no man's TV schedule. He sails the content seas under the skull and crossbones committing daily acts of piracy. In this version of 'drag the net,' the names have been changed to protect the guilty.