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MEDIA ANALYSIS:

Parade Magazine's Peculiar "Intelligence Report"

by Alice Cherbonnier

Parade's chart, despite its oversized headline to the contrary, isn't about how much taxpayers would pay under the two presidential candidates' plans, but about how much they would save.
The Sun., Oct. 12 issue of Parade Magazine carried a peculiar "Intelligence Report" on page 6. A headline measuring over six inches wide enticed readers of the "Your Money" section: "How Much Would You Pay in Taxes?" it asked. Vignetted head shots of Obama and McCain below the headline alerted readers that they would learn here how much they would pay under either candidate's tax plan.

Under Obama's picture, there's a tall stack of dollar bills; under McCain's, a considerably shorter stack. Anyone who stopped right there, and relied only on the headline and images, would reasonably assume they'd be paying a lot more in taxes under Obama than under McCain.

Parade mag's tax story
See larger image

But wait: that's not what Parade's chart is about; the chart isn't about how much taxpayers would pay, but how much they would save under either candidate's plan. Those stacks of dollar bills show how much taxpayers would save. Too bad the term "tax savings" shows up in the chart in very small type. Only if a reader examines the chart carefully, and reads the information below it, will he or she understand that the headline for the chart is completely misleading.

It's good that Parade made an attempt to inform the public of important facts. Too bad their layout belied the information. You have to wonder how this happened. Did whoever prepared this "intelligence" want to intentionally mislead readers? Or does Parade no longer employ editors?


Ms. Cherbonnier is the Managing Editor of this newspaper.

Parade's online edition repeats the error of headline-versus-chart mismatch, but at least the variance of type sizes is not as extreme.


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This story was published on October 15, 2008.