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Junk: Hostess stories missed the point

Testy Business Copy Editor Phillip BlanchardThe Baltimore Orioles may have a reason of concern with the development of pitching prospect Kevin Gausman. … Gausman will soon be without his crutch that made him … the No. 4 pick in the June draft — powdered donuts. (USA Today)

End of Twinkies full pageHostess Brands, which was proceeding with its second Chapter 11 reorganization in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, closed after the Bakery Workers union went on strike, refusing to grant further concessions to the company. The closing puts about 18,000 people out of work, and more lost jobs can be expected as the effects move down the supply chain.

The Teamsters, which had agreed to further concessions, blamed its brother union: “Unfortunately, the company’s operating and financial problems were so severe that it required steep concessions from a variety of stakeholders but not all stakeholders were willing to be constructive, said Ken Hall, the Teamsters’  general secretary treasurer.

This is a story that has it all, and diligent readers could put it together by collecting pieces among the hundreds of stories pumped out after the Hostess announcement. It was difficult to pick a lede: A significant number of lost jobs as the government and Wall Street track every 10th of a percentage point in the unemployment rate and the number of new applicants for unemployment benefits? (To their credit, many local newspapers focused on jobs.)  A riveting break in the labor movement (described by the Wall Street Journal as a “chasm between the bakers and the Teamsters?

So, of course, most everyone made it a story about Twinkies.

There are several plausible reasons why the Hostess Brands story became mostly a Twinkies story.  The one that should be true is that the story was hijacked by lifestyle editors and designers. The one that apparently is true is that nearly everyone smacked their lips at the prospect of a “fun” story, and then ran with it without thinking it through. (Charles Apple, the design blogger, collected some Twinkie front pages). An Internet meme — “Twinkie apocalypse ” — was promptly coined.

There’s a lot of that — not thinking — going on around journalism these days.

Incredibly, some stories and columns mused on the death of Twinkies, and yet acknowledged far down that they could or almost certainly would survive.  Apparently, plenty of buyers will line up to buy the familiar Hostess brands.

But all that takes away from the “fun.”  And “fun” is what we’re all about!

Worth repeating

There’s no particularly large virtue to “averting” the fiscal cliff on Day N-3 versus “going over the fiscal cliff” and then fixing it in retrospect on Day N+3. (Matt Yglesias, Slate)

I warned about the term “fiscal cliff” in July.  It’s scaremongering, and Yglesias nicely confirms that it’s a poor metaphor.

Unfortunately, the term has gone from being a quotation, to being set off by quotation marks, to being used without quotes, without explanation or justification. Everyone seems to be using it, but you don’t have to. I’d prefer that you didn’t. And no, I won’t shut up about it.

In Basics, Featured, Phillip Blanchard, Story ideas.

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