Sunday, June 3, 2012

Is "Soaring" the Right Word Here?

Ten days or so ago, I posted the graph above under the headline "Sharp Uptick in Iraqi Production".  I chose my words carefully - "uptick" to indicate that this was a movement upward of the same general order of magnitude as other recent movements in the time series, and "sharp" to emphasize that, as upticks in Iraqi production go, this was a somewhat larger and faster one than has been typical (but not, in my judgement, so great as to make the use of "uptick" misleading).

Yesterday, the New York Times decided to report on the same development under the headline "Oil Output Soars as Iraq Retools":
BAGHDAD — Despite sectarian bombings and political gridlock, Iraq’s crude oil production is soaring, providing a singular bright spot for the nation’s future and relief for global oil markets as the West tightens sanctions on Iranian exports.
Their version of the graphic is this:
I don't object to the graphic.  Nor of course do I disagree that Iraq's production has increased and is likely to increase further (I've been covering this for a long time).

But I do really question whether the sober grey-lady paper-of-record should refer to an increase of about 300kbd above the level of last fall as "soaring" in the present tense.  I don't think so.  I think "soaring" carries a strong connotation of already being way up in the air, or ascending very materially and rapidly.  I don't think 300kbd merits that term.  I think, if we wanted to use a flight metaphor, we might reasonably say "has begun to take off" or even "looks set to soar".  But I think the use of "soaring" in the present tense is an exaggeration.  I think this fits in a long-standing pattern at the New York Times of distorted coverage in which positive oil market developments are over-hyped while negative ones are minimized.

1 comment:

porsena said...

The graphic indicates that production at long last is similar to what it was before the invasion. That doesn't, somehow, seem suitable headline material for the NY Times.

I don't know the editorial practice there but in more average newspapers the reporter has little to no input to the headline, which is written by the section editor. The editor here seems to have gone with the headline (s)he imagined as the best case at the time the story was assigned. Oh dear.