Scoring a compelling interview with Roger Ailes is a big deal — especially when you can lard up the resulting story with drama dashes. Drama dashes are crutches, punctuational 2x4s used by writers to supply their copy with tension and juxtaposition — not to mention an exclamation mark or two. The Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz shows us how it’s done — through the prism of his profile on the Fox News chief.
Example #1 (lede sentence):
It was part political spectacle, part American Idol, part YouTube extravaganza, a pure Roger Ailes production — and the latest sign that the Fox News chairman is quietly repositioning America’s dominant cable-news channel.
Analysis: If you’re repositioning a cable news network, hey, that merits a drama dash.
But the real eye-opener was the sight of his anchors grilling the Republican contenders, which pleases the White House but cuts sharply against the network’s conservative image — and risks alienating its most rabid right-wing fans.
Analysis: Playing fast and loose with rabid right-wing fans? That’s the sort of out-on-a-limb behavior that clearly entails a drama dash, if not two!
So too did Sarah Palin’s being widely promoted as the GOP’s potential savior — in large measure through her lucrative platform at Fox.
Analysis: Oooh, Palin used her lucrative platform at Fox to do this?
As he embarks on his last hurrah — Ailes’s contract is up in 2013 — he is acting not like a political operative but as a corporate chieftain who knows that fostering friction and picking fights make for good television — and good business.
Analysis: Have a look at the wonders of drama-dash deletion: “as a corporate chieftain who knows that fostering friction and picking fights make for good television and good business.”
Told that the network has secured an interview with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Ailes mentions that he’s been chatting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — and insists Abbas should be asked about the extent of the U.S. commitment to Israel.
Analysis: Again, delete!
Ailes is exploiting the reality-TV tension — even as the contestants are seeking his advice.
Analysis: No way — no possible way!
He keeps his edge in part because after all these years, he still sees himself as an insurgent — an identity rooted in his blue-collar upbringing in Warren, Ohio.
Analysis: By far the least conspicuous and troubling of drama-dash atrocities in the piece, though a comma would have worked well.
Ailes says O’Reilly has “moderated” his views and that “Beck scared him” — meaning Beck was so popular on the right that O’Reilly had to find a different niche.
Analysis: Again, the humble comma would have been a nice choice.
For his part, O’Reilly says he supported most of George W. Bush’s policies and gave Obama’s economic plans a chance for 18 months — before opposing them as unworkable.
Analysis: Such a stunning and impactful change of tone for a cable news host demands nothing less than a full drama dash — perhaps even a double-long one.