A Headline Devalues North Korea's Nuclear Test

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The May 26 front-page headline that described the latest North Korean nuclear test as a "small" advance ["North Korean Nuclear Blast Draws Global Condemnation; China, Russia Decry Ally; Device Seen as Small Advance"] seemed to offer a subjective conclusion that was out of place in a straight news article. The Post's expert stated that the explosive yield was two to five times that of the 2006 North Korean test (the seismic readings on The Post's front page suggested a value of four times greater); I doubt that those who might unfortunately be exposed to such a four-fold increase in explosive power as part of a terrorist attack would deem the differences to be "small."

With various news sources differing rather widely on the yield of the nuclear test, and the New York Times referring to the North Korean test as a "major advance" at the same time the Post has designated it as a "small advance," a reader pursuing this topic could be understandably confused. To maintain clarity in this complicated field, perhaps it would be best for news stories to stick to the facts and relegate the adjectives to the opinion and analysis articles.

-- Allan R. Glass


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