Sensational, imprecise or subjective terms add more to the news than an entertainment factor — they obscure the information, making it harder to figure out what happened and what the effects of that could be. We found all these forms of spin in the coverage of the Kurdish referendum, which is an already complex situation.
Here’s a quick illustration of what happens when spin is brought into journalism. Examine the following information, which is in the style of our Daily Cut news summaries.
Iraqi Kurds voted 92.73 percent in favor of independence from Iraq in a non-binding referendum, according to regional officials.
The outcome could be a step towards independence for the semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq and areas it claims.
Kurdish secession is opposed by the central government in Baghdad. Iraq, Turkey and Iran have responded to the bid for independence by deploying troops to the area and restricting travel in and out of Kurdish territory.
The U.S. Department of State issued a message before the vote on Sept. saying, “the costs of proceeding with the referendum are high for all Iraqis, including Kurds.”
Now, compare the above to excerpts from Al Jazeera , CNN , The Washington Post  and The Daily Caller  (the spin is noted in red). The information below is arranged in the same order. In fact, the previous summary was extracted from these passages.
Iraqi Kurds overwhelmingly voted in favor of a split from Iraq, according to regional officials, as tensions soared between Erbil and Baghdad following a contested referendum.
The outcome represents a step towards independence for the semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq and areas it claims, and puts Kurdish authorities on a collision course with their counterparts in Baghdad.
Any idea of secession is bitterly opposed by the central government in Baghdad. The bid for autonomy has roiled Iraq’s central government, Turkey and Iran, and is shaping up to usher in a period of contentious wrangling over its implementation.
The U.S. Department of State issued a particularly scathing message before the vote on Sept. saying “the costs of proceeding with the referendum are high for all Iraqis, including Kurds.”
Did you notice the added length, imprecision, ambiguity, how it dramatized the information and how it affected your impression of the situation? Did you also notice the spin didn’t add any significant information? The spun version actually added opinion instead.
More importantly, the spin in these articles isn’t random. If you look at the language, it supports the idea that this situation is headed towards an armed conflict with Baghdad, and possibly an international conflict as well. But the articles don’t substantiate this possibility, and also don’t offer other possibilities for how this situation could evolve.
In the case of Iraq and its Kurdish population, there are numerous issues, interests and factors to keep track of, not just locally, but internationally as well (for more on this, read the Timeline at the end of this analysis). And, as the outlets note, how these two groups handle this situation may influence the way surrounding countries govern their Kurdish populations. To add spin to all of this seems, in the least, unnecessary. It ultimately distorts our understanding of events, and it can inspire premature speculation about possible outcomes, which, if left to the imagination, usually translate into worst-case scenarios.
Having data-based news will deliver what we need to know, while saving us time in the process.
Written by Tine Stausholm and Ivy Nevares
Edited by Ivy Nevares and Jens Erik Gould
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Jens Erik Gould
Jens is a political, business and entertainment writer and editor who has reported from a dozen countries for media outlets including The New York Times, National Public Radio and Bloomberg News