Media Critique Blog #6

“Alabama has a proliferation of pregnant porkers.” With a title like that, John Archibald, of The Birmingham News, was sure to get a reaction out of his readers. Add in the fact that the story is more about politics than it is about pigs, and an idea was likely to be quickly formed by many – politicians are pigs.

Archibald begins by discussing the problems we face with pigs: greed and corruption, boorish behavior, and an insatiable appetite. He says if you “give an Alabama pig an inch…it will take a pile.” For a little while the story seems boring, a simple description of pigs. But then Archibald throws the reader a curveball by comparing these pigs to senators and representatives. Out of no where, politics has been thrown into the story. If the reader is anything like myself, her or she likely went back through the description of pigs to read what Archibald was actually saying about politicians. It is at this point that Archibald either gains or loses support from readers.

For those that read on, he then writes, “It is mere chance that a wild pig’s gestation period is roughly the same length of time as a regular session of the Alabama Legislature. It is just coincidence that a wild pig can spit out eight to 10 piglets in the time it takes lawmakers to pass one decent law. This pig dilemma is about real pigs.” It’s easy to read right between the lines of his sarcasm and see that he’s actually bashing the government, but instead of coming right out and saying how he feels, he has chosen to voice his thoughts behind a story on pigs.

Archibald then shifts towards a different topic – wild pig birth control. It seems like a bit of a strange topic, but of course he relates it back to politics. He describes a little bit of what the birth control would look like for pigs, but then he slips right back into his “sarcastic voice.” He says, “I mean, here we have the government — not piggish insurance companies, of course — paying for pig contraception. And there’s not even a snort of debate about it.” Obviously, he is hinting at the fact that the government is perfectly fine with birth control for pigs – there’s barely a whisper of any argument against it! However, there have been and may always be debates on birth control for women. Archibald does a great job of pointing out a flaw in the government without ever specifically saying it himself – he simply leads the reader to the thought he wants him/her to have.

The one downfall of this story is the use of quotes. Archibald quotes Steve Ditchkoff, a professor at Auburn University, a few times, but the quotes are all related to pigs. The quotes don’t serve a purpose in bringing the government into the story, but perhaps that was Archibald’s idea – if he mainly talks about pigs, then who can be upset with him for mentioning politics? The only other quote is actually a reference to George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Although this could be a good reference to tie in, it was a poor way to end the story.

John Archibald did a fantastic job of getting his thoughts across without having to bluntly state them. He used humor and sarcasm to lead the reader to his idea. The quotes weren’t great and didn’t add very much, but the story was thought-provoking and silently threw darts, if you will, at the government.

The news story can be found here.

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