Dated November 7, 2002, it speaks about the fact that, as of that date - and for the first time in Senate history - three currently-serving Senators had actually belonged to that body for more than forty years continuously. ("New Seniority Record," 7 November 2002) the stature of these three men? Very great, I imagine, but as of that date - unassailable. The creator of this web site did not dare to give any sort of heavy or overly critical analysis of any still-serving U.S. senators. A living incumbent, and his actions, bear a very different status from the legislator of the past. He, after all, does not have to worry about re-election!
Certainly, there is quite a bit to be learned from these examples of status information. As stated earlier, each of us carries with herself or himself certain assumptions about other people, places... even ideas. The example concerning the Prince of Wales and His New Princess is interesting in that it points up a potential danger in any kind of reporting: the problem of summary judgment or prejudice. Few people genuinely know anything about Camilla, yet the paper appeared determined to paint her in a somewhat unfavorable light. It was as if the article was saying that Charles is Royal, and Camilla is not. Furthermore, the comment about a "frumpy" Camilla automatically invites an unspoken comparison to the Prince's former wife, Diana. The article about Moussaoui, and its accompanying photograph, represents as well an attempt to poison the minds of the readers even before they begin to go through the article. Again, this attempt to sway the reader on an emotional level is not conducive to a fair airing of the facts, or is it worthy of the supposedly "objective" viewpoint of one of the world's leading newspapers.
Among the other discoveries of this look at "status," was the uncovering of a still-more insidious method of reporting events. In many of the pieces at which we looked, the "judgment" that the reader is invited to make is conceived of as something that happens almost automatically. For example, Mayor Daley's defense of vocational schools does not, in reality, contain anything positive or negative about such a school. Instead, it is the mere offering of the comment that is significant. People have a certain idea about "vocational schools," and the Mayor, as well the Tribune's readers are fully cognizant of the nature of that point-of-view. A more positive way of handling the story might have been for the article to have listed all that the vocational schools would do, rather than introducing at once the idea that "You'll live with it!" Too many times, even the most objective people let slip small comments or phrases that indicate a prejudice one way or the other. Particular words become "code words." They stand for entire ideas that are already known to the reader, or the hearer. The two articles that reference "Hispanics" count on a specific reaction to the mere mention of that term. In the online piece, we see the idea that Hispanic people normally do not speak English. That right away suggests a different social milieu. We evidently know that Hispanics who speak only Spanish (or prefer to read only Spanish) have different priorities. Would, just as an example, the article be in favor of increased immigration were it directed to a Spanish-speaking audience as opposed to an English-speaking one? Do English-speaking Hispanics consider themselves more "American" than Spanish-speaking ones?
Still more curious is the comment about the Seinfeld finale. In this, as with the Board of Regents example, we see something operator that is even vaguer in outline, but as perniciously real. What is offensive about the Jerry Seinfeld and his buddies being at the Puerto Rican day Parade? Is there something wrong with non-Puerto Ricans attending the event? Do non-Puerto Ricans who attend Puerto-Rican events automatically disrupt the event, or make fun of its participants? It is very unclear, and appears to point toward some much deeper prejudice. Do Puerto-Ricans feel that they cannot be as free at their own events if there are non-Puerto Ricans present? A similar situation exists in the remarks about the management of the University of Georgia's endowment. Why the Board of regents has order the other group to disengage is anybody's guess. One wonders what the point of that article could have been - was it that the group was mismanaging the fund? Or could it even have been an example of the outrageousness of the Regents themselves? They do come across as "typical" bureaucrats. Is it possible that the public is meant to wonder "What crazy reason could the Board of Regents have for issuing an order like that?!"
The status of people, organizations, places, and ideas differs depending upon the context. One group may possess a generally negative status, while others may present a negative status only in relation to certain others. Some groups seem to accord a lowly (or even offensive) "outsider" status to anyone who is not a member of the group. Whereas, there are actually groups who motivations and practices are entirely inscrutable to anyone who attempts to penetrate them from the outside. The building of that vocational school in Chicago was apparently an unwelcome addition to the neighborhood, but it must have satisfied some constituency, or else it never would have been built. Sometimes even the words we use can tell us what we think of a group. "Hispanic" creates a different impression from "Latina." "Princely" and "frumpy" (especially when applied to a princess) sound like total opposites. There is no doubt that in using language, whether written or spoken, great care must be taken to select the proper words. A few misspoken sentences, and years of effort can be ruined. Say things graciously, and even the "lowliest" among us might feel as if they have been elevated to the "highest" reaches of society.
Associated Press. (20 April 2005). "Judge to Accept Guilty Plea from Moussaoui." New York Times.
Cholo, Ana Beatriz. (20 April 2005). "Schools to Replace Westinghouse." Chicago Tribune.
Frankel, Daniel. (8 May 1998). "Hispanics Seething Over 'Seinfeld'." E! Online. URL: http://www.eonline.com/News/Items/0,1,2976,00.html.
Graff, Christopher. (20 April 2005). "Sen. Jeffords will not Seek Reelection." Washington Post.
Korda, Michael. (18 April 2005). "Family Drama." U.S. News and World Report.
Lee-St. John, Jeninne. (28 March 2005). "Selling Spanglish: Companies Find Special Challenges Marketing to U.S. Hispanics." Time Magazine.
No author. (20 April 2005). Hispanic Online. URL: http://www.hispaniconline.com/.
No Author. "New Seniority Record." United States Senate Web Site, Art & History, Historical Minutes: 1964-Present, URL: http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/New_Seniority_Record.htm.