Word Count: 495
The Word Lab by Nicholas Lemann discusses the way politicians gather and use buzz words to appeal to their audiences. These phrases commonly used by politicians are often created in “word labs”, in which words are put together in order to create the most positive or negative reactions from voters (depending on which way a politician would like to persuade them). These types of word labs have been conducted by Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster. In the focus group labs, many people have definite associations with certain words associated with the government. From these words, phrases used by politicians can be developed.
The author of this article is Nicholas Lemann. He was born and raised in New Orleans and then went to Harvard University. He was the Dean of Journalism at the Columbia University. He has written several books, one of which has won an award. Because of his deep involvement in journalism, it is probable that he is genuinely interested in these focus group word labs, to bring light to the public on what is behind the words of politicians. He presented this article in an unbiased way which did not lean to the left or the right or portray one party as a more effective user of word labs.
The New Yorker is typically a magazine that is read almost equally by all age groups and slightly more women read it than men. The income of the readers is high-middle class, with the average household income at about 110,000. The New Yorker is also known to write critiques on politics, so it is not surprising that this type of article is in this magazine. Therefore, the readers of this article, which 40% of are professionals, are likely college educated and interested in how politics affect their lives. As the author said, “It becomes impossible to listen to prominent politicians speak without being aware of how much of what you’re hearing is Word Lab product.”
Overall, I think that the author of this article has found a creative way to research these types of focus groups. The New Yorker sponsored one of Luntz’s focus groups, so Lemann was there see for himself how they operate. He published the results, as well as interviewed other sources to compare the work of Lemann. One of the people he interviewed was Robert K. Merton, the creator of focus groups. Merton thought that Luntz’s focus groups were not run in the way focus groups were originally created. This provides context for the readers to create a full story. By doing this, Luntz has created a transparent article on what is behind the words politicians say, which can create a more educated population of voters.
Circulation demographics. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.condenast.com/brands/new-yorker/media-kit/print
Lemann, N. (2000, October 16 & 23). The word lab: the mad science behind what the candidates say. The New Yorker, 100-109.
Nicholas lemann. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.journalism.columbia.edu/profile/50