Talk for Article "Sex and power – a turning point?"

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    Even a cursory understanding of the dynamics of the history of economic power reveals that sexual abuse, of the type of which Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey et al are accused, is a superficial representation of the bullying and abuse that are the foundations and bedrock of prevailing economic and financial systems whether they are “capitalist” or “socialist”.

    Inequalities of power have been entrenched over millennia by people (mostly men) who bully, abuse, leverage the advantage that (sometimes small amounts of power) is bestowed on them. The powerful, energetic people, those with powers of advocacy and access to resources who have imposed their wills on the weak and vulnerable whether it is stealing sexual advantage or the sequestration of land or other assets for their advantage or that of their families or acolytes.

    The focus on sexual impositions with the promises of advancement or favours has lit a fuse under Hollywood and the political establishment. But the ultimate cache of explosive revelations about the long-term, systemic abuse of power will be when the sexual aspect of abuse is put in proportion to the overwhelming weight of economic abuse that has created an obeisant and compliant work force that is wholly dependent on those who have already accumulated economic power that they use to further their own interests.

    The weakening of trade union power, the commoditisation of an “on demand” work force increasingly dependent on casual labour opportunities or “zero hours” contracts is a current manifestation of how this power is used.

    Historically, the seizure of common land, the Enclosures in Britain, the Highland Clearances in Sotland, brutal colonisations in Asia, Africa, Australasia the Americas and and the emergence of multinational companies exploiting low wages, poor working conditions and weak environmental protections are products of the thrusting and abusive men endowed with a sense of entitlement who led these processes.

    Three cheers for those who have initiated the exposure of sexual abuses by the powerful in Hollywood and politics, but the true extent of bullying by the powerful will take a long time to expose.

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    I am putting together a story on how the 100-year suffrage anniversary marks how much still to be done. Please contribute:

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    Article reads as defensive of the abusers. Why is the aggressor the “casualty” instead of the victims? Why are aggressors’ “reputations” what’s most important? etc.

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      Well, that is a first. I think we said his reputation was the first casualty but yours is certainly a different and welcome perspective.

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        “Defensive” was too strong. Maybe a better way to say it is that is uses the status quo perspective as the lens by which to view the situations of abuse.

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          For example, starting with “loss of reputation” is like starting an apology by saying “this has been hard for all my fans” instead of “I’ve really hurt someone.” It may be true, but it’s privileging the abuser’s perspective.

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            Hey Todd. I’m glad you commented as I was also skeptical about this phrasing when writing for the same reasons you outline here. However, the accusations have literally tarnished their reputations, which is largely a first for sexual harassment allegations against powerful men. For example, two of Casey Affleck’s female colleagues sued him for sexual misconduct before he won an Oscar in 2016; Johnny Depp is still enjoying a healthy film career despite a domestic abuse case against him, etc. The recent slew of accusations is maybe the first time a large group of men’s reputations have been tarnished from sexual assault claims.

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    As WT continues to gain more exposure and traction, as well as expand its coverage areas, it is due to attract many passionate readers who will use the “TALK” section to advance their (often nasty and unfounded) arguments.

    What will WT do to make sure this section does not actually turn into a Youtube comment section or a political Twitter thread? Even if WT can minimize personal attacks, I would not want to see the Talk section become a forum for political debate, but rather very pointed, actionable feedback on the journalism itself.

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      Hi Leo, thank you for your comment. We hope that TALK will be used for astute conversations about the material in stories and journalistic practices. We have community moderators and a code of conduct [] that we expect our community contributors to adhere to. There is also a blocking policy in place to prevent ongoing disruption or personal attacks.

      Thankfully, so far most comments have been respectful and add to the conversation about quality journalism.

      Hope that helps!

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    Looking forward to guidelines regarding, as Jimmy put it, “fixing the news”, which implies that something is wrong with the news. We can’t fix it until we identify what is wrong, and for each thing, agree on how WikiTribune presumes to fix it.
    Is there a list of things that are broken in the news and how WikiTribune’s design fixes those things?
    One way that bias shows is through word choice, and carefully selected quotes out of context. This technique is insidious because it can often escape detection and influences readers in subtle ways.
    May I suggest that rooting out these behaviors is the highest good that a citizen-journalism news service could achieve?
    If the discussions about removing bias were public, wouldn’t that truly make WikiTribune a news service that people could trust? But if there are no standards or guidelines that we all can look to when there is disagreement, then it fails before it starts IMO.
    Can we at least follow basic journalism standards that are already documented in wikipedia? Otherwise this is just another opinion outlet controlled by those who have an agenda.

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      We will shortly be publishing the guidelines the staff are working towards but they very much in line with this:
      I can also share with you an interview with Poynter which explains what we are trying to achieve:
      These discussions about suggestions of bias are public. In the case of this particular story I personally don’t see the question of bias arising unless one believes in some idea of an “anti-man” bias or that there is somehow a countervailing view that sexual harassment is arguable.

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        With the state of the world, especially politics, I was hopeful about the concept of WikiTribune, and the two articles you reference seem to exemplify what is great about the idea. However, the article under discussion is the opposite of journalism and I have nearly lost hope in the whole endeavor. If you, the leader of this great experiment, with your impressive background and experience, are unable to see what is wrong with the article and continue to support it (it’s not the underlying message, but rather the poor journalism), then there really is no hope for WikiTribune to be something new and unique. That would be a real shame. Others on this page have stated the case better than I, even some that you didn’t respond to. I hope that you will take those suggestions to heart and include them in the standard. May I also suggest that you spend some time reading or listening to conservative commentary to better understand that perspective. Amongst the fear-mongering nonsense are some truths about the liberal bent and lack of honest journalism in most media outlets. This feeds their paranoia. It’s the polarization that we should be fighting, rather than taking sides, or even appearing to take sides which happens through the use of cherry-picked quotes from cherry-picked “experts”, along with fluff adjectives that move opinion without being technically dishonest.

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    If the source cited is CNN – it makes the point of wikitribune (an attack on fake-news) a circular argument. I understand that sometime this is inevitable but frankly this kind of fact can easily be found directly using Twitter’s advanced search:
    “According to CNN, the #MeToo hashtag was used more than 825,000 times on Twitter”

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      Good point. We’ll look at replacing that note with the Twitter analytics. It’s not something I would expect CNN could be accused of faking though.

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    Here are a few things that could lead a reader to believe this article was written by a biased author.
    1. The headline image of Kevin Spacey. It already could be taken as anti-male. As an alternative, what about a graph of the explosion of the use of the #metoo hashtag over time.
    2. The subheading “Reducing systemic sexual assault requires more than a hashtag: it’s really about redefining power”. This statement assumes that “systemic” sexual assault exists. Combined with the image, it clearly implies “by men”. Is that the case? Honestly, I have never in my 54 years seen it occur, and have never heard a man discuss it. I’m pretty sure I haven’t been living in a cultural cave either. What is the evidence that systemic sexual assault exists. Also, there is a mixture of using “sexual assault”, “sexual misbehavior”, and counting “interactions with” the metoo hashtag. It almost seems to be implying that millions of people have been sexually assaulted.
    I’m fair minded and willing to put aside my concerns to keep reading and look for the gold, but anyone with an anti-MSM bent will be gone and never come back. It’s THOSE folks who we need to keep IMO. Especially those whose primary source of news is Fox News, or even MSNBC, both of which seem to offer up poorly vetted “fake news” and emotion-bait. I’ll stop there, but I think it’s fair to say that there are a number of adjectives used in the article that appear to show an author bias and would definitely turn off at least 37% of readers. Again, THOSE are the people who most need an alternative to the emotion baiting networks.

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      I’ve read your note several times and thought about it.
      I struggle to see how one could be “biased” about sexual harassment — or take a contrary view of it somehow either not existing or a positive view of it.
      I can see how someone might find this or any piece which mentions a political figure to be biased – though in this case I believe we have been at pains to make clear that political figures of all stripes have been caught up in both allegations, their own admissions of bad behaviour and even resigned as a result.
      I think the story also makes clear with its multiple “expert” academic sources that the concept of “systemic” sexual harassment does appear to be a “thing”.
      We deliberately chose to leave stepping in to this story — and not for example follow Weinstein blow by blow as it were — to allow space to ask the questions on what it all actually meant and whether it might lead to a shift in general attitudes. I’m not sure when we will tackle it again but I doubt it is going to go away. Regards,

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    When I first read the title, I didn’t want to read the article. It gave me the feeling…another biased article against men. Power must be defined. This type of misconduct happens at all levels of society. Men and women in powerful and lesser positions can abuse their titles. “Sexual misconduct is once again in the spotlight, when will it be you”…that would have my attention. But that’s just my thought.

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      Thanks. Once you got behind the headline did you feel it addressed the subject in a valuable way? The point was to get beyond the saga of the Weinstein case and look a little more broadly on the issues of power and relationships — particularly through the range of academics quoted in the piece.

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        Yes, i feel there was value in the material presented.

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    The accounts posted under the MeToo hashtag are many and varied, as are those covered on mainstream media. Whilst all harrassment is unacceptable, some allegations are much more severe than the rest and I worry that these are getting lost in the sheer scale of the conversation, which does those particular victims a disservice. Has anyone done a statistical analysis of the types of harrassment appearing under the hashtag as well as the comments attached to them?

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    Although important to discuss, the topic of this article doesn’t seem to jive with the purpose of WikiTribune. It’s too subjective and controversial. Even the words used are fraught with ambiguity and easily classified as politically correct or SJW by some readers. We need to pull in both sides of the divide, and I’m afraid this article would make it appear to a large portion of the potential audience as just another PC main stream media piece.
    By the way, in another venue, (Wikipinion?), if I was writing on the topic I’d broaden it to include any form of abuse of power. I’ve seen far more non-sexual misconduct in the workplace related to power plays that effectively say “toe the line, or you are on your way to getting fired”. I think the root problem is a lack of respect and honesty. The lack of honest discussion in the workplace is pervasive and is on the same continuum as sexual misconduct in terms of ethical behavior. Also, it’s not just men doing the misbehaving. I had a female boss once who loved to humiliate men, forcing them to grovel before her in front of others. I didn’t last long at that job. Although I understand that due to men generally being more physically intimidating the fear factor is much higher for women.

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    ‘At least fifteen women have accused the president of sexual assault, misconduct or unwanted physical advances. But the allegations failed to damage his campaign for the White House.’

    I’d like to see a piece exploring this idea. Why did the allegations of sexual assault have little effect on Trump’s campaign? If we posit that it’s because the majority or Americans (or at least, American voters) don’t think of sexual assault as an issue that makes or breaks a campaign, what does this mean for the idea of Sex and Power more broadly?

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    I agree with the point made by Chris Johnson and some other people that “this article gets pretty close to being an opinion piece sculpted around under-developed data points. It’s an interesting and valuable discussion, but is it news?” I happen to largely agree with the point of view which it presents, but it definitely expresses a point of view. For example, it is clearly a point of view to say that Trump and Weiner “were cut from the same roll of toilet paper.” The fact that a person quoted in the article actually said that does not make it any less of a point of view. This in fact is an old game among journalists in traditional media. If a reporter wants to promote his/her point of view in a story, the simple trick for doing so is to find someone who will express that point of view, and then just quote them. The sources in this article are in fact all feminists. Again, I don’t have a problem with that point of view. I agree with it. But it neither reflects “just the facts” nor a representative sampling of currently-accepted points of view.

    As an example of a point of view that is not represented in this story, here is op-ed piece by Cathy Young (a frequent critic of feminism), who expresses concern that “Weinsteining” may go “too far” and destroy careers over “minor misconduct and ambiguous transgressions,” while “stereotyping men as abusers and women as perpetual victims in need of quasi-Victorian protections.”

    I’m not sure what can or should be done about this. Wikipedia’s “neutral point of view” policy has always been a bit of a slippery concept, but overall I think it has served the project well. Journalism, though, is a different thing than creating creating an encyclopedia. Traditional journalism has always included editorials and other opinion pieces in addition to straight reporting, and I don’t know if it is going to be possible for WikiTribune to do otherwise. Then however begs the question of how WikiTribune is going to differ fundamentally from websites such as Medium.

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      We’ll take a look at including that Cathy Young reference, thanks. I cannot agree that the piece is slanted. Neutrality doesn’t mean uninterested and sexual harassment isn’t a one side or the other issue I’d have thought. It’s also why we did it as a story about power and whether this is a watershed moment rather than another catalogue of the various reported abuses. Thanks.

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        This might be a watershed article. Please review what you regard as ‘an analysis of power’. I imagine that will be a make or break issue for WikiTribune and it seems to me this is a generic opinion piece that joins current mainstream commentary.

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          This discussion is taking time and energy away from more productive work. Maybe we need a document that provides some guidelines that we could look to in the future to ensure that we are writing articles that match the vision of this service. At a minimum we might follow the excellent wikipedia style guidelines, but possibly with some journalism-specific additions. Wikipedia already has specific guidelines that help us avoid inadvertently sneaking our opinion into the article:

          Worth a read.

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            I’ll post more of our guidelines on what is and is not a Wikitribune piece this week. I’d say this is absolutely not an opinion piece and nor are we running commentary. In this case I think we source it clearly and in the case of academics and people who study this sort of power issue for a living they are both varied geographically, by institution and by discipline. Peter

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              Well, I can see that I’m wasting my time here.

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    While sexual harassment is the hot topic of the day, much of this starts with a person in power testing out who is vulnerable in their area of influence by creating a hostile work environment or picking at people that they hope they can control. It may start with one person, it may progress to the whole of the team.

    The point is, there is always someone vulnerable. Even the strongest of us can have a bad week or bad month and can succumb to manipulation by someone in power over us. It starts there – then if the perpetrator gets away with it and HR does nothing to reign in the offender, it only progresses from there. The person in power thinks they are untouchable, and keeps raising the stakes.

    I think the discussion starts there.

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      That’s really interesting, thank you. Finding that point on when to enter the story is one reason we did the piece this way because the Weinstein affair on its own is not the whole story. Peter

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    I agree that this article gets pretty close to being an opinion piece sculpted around under-developed data points. It’s an interesting and valuable discussion, but is it news?

    The power aspect is certainly an important perspective, and I’m reminded of this article by Brit Marling:

    “Consent is a function of power. You have to have a modicum of power to give it.”

    You could lose the “is this a turning point?” speculation and expand on the power imbalance. If your options are to be abused to lose your income, how much of a choice is there? Once abused, if your choice is to accept a payout or have your life totally destroyed, again what choice is there? The article could explore this well-worn playbook of threats vs bribes, and how forced acceptance of money is a deliberate insurance policy against anyone who has a change of heart and tries to speak out, far more effective than an NDA.

    -or- if you want to talk turning points, then that needs to be developed. I’m of the opinion (and it is just opinion) that for much of the western population there was, until recently, a belief that this problem had been “solved” (like racism had been “solved”), that abuse of this magnitude no longer occurred because protections and processes had been put in place. Now I feel that this belief actually protected the worst offenders, as it made victims feel that they wouldn’t be believed.

    So, if you want to ask “Is this a turning point?”, you need to look at why previous attempts to solve this problem failed and why offenders continued to offend without any effective action to stop them. It isn’t just “rich white men will be rich white men”. And if you want to examine change, or the lack of it, you should at least include some sort of mention of the Italian reaction to the Weinstein scandal:

    Particularly Libero’s “…column about the Weinstein accusations by Renato Forina with the headline “Prima la danno poi frignano e fingono di pentirsi” (“First I Give It Away, Then I Whine and Pretend to Repent”), in which Farina writes that “falling for the boss’ advances to make a career is prostitution, not rape.””

    I guess I’m suggesting a rewrite. Either focus on power or focus on change.

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      We’ll take a look at the Slate piece. Thanks. The story is deliberately billed as an analysis which I believe it it to be.

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    > Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein “were cut from the same roll of toilet paper.”

    This turns the article in to a typical Trump hit piece. Comparing the President to a “roll of toilet paper”. This would turn any conservative, or Trump-supporter (25% of the USA) off immediately.

    Even though its a quote, the decision to use this comment implies bias.

    I read an [earlier version]( of this piece before it was published, and it had no mention of Trump and I had no complaints. But now he has become a huge focus in the article. If you drag in Trump, you drag in partisan politics, which distracts from the issue.

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      Jessie, i think it would be hard to do this piece without reference to the fallout from the Access Hollywood tapes during the campaign and of course the earlier behaviour of President Clinton. They are both in there in what I’d argue is a proportionate way. Peter

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        But are you really going to leave the toilet paper quote in there? It really ruins the piece and will drive away readers. Just imagine a Trump supporter reading that and how they would respond.

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    The selective name-dropping in the opening two paragraphs may be interpreted as bias by some and put them off the rest of the article.

    Something like “The issue of sexual misconduct does not discriminate by political leaning.” Source:

    Or: “President’s Donald Trump and Bill Clinton”, “Head of Fox News Roger Ailes and NPR chief Michael Oreskes”, etc.

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      I agree completely. May I suggest that you make that change? I can make it later today but I am working from my phone right now and I am not confident that I won’t mess something up!

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      Hi Jessie, I have added in President Clinton to the opening. He was already mentioned in the piece, along with former U.S. rep Democrat Anthony Weiner, in what I would argue is showing the case that sexual misconduct does not discriminate by political position.

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        Cool. Also, don’t you think the “Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein were cut from the same roll of toilet paper” quote is a bit much?

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    The title marks this as a speculation piece: Is it a turning point? Let’s speculate.

    Speculation is interesting, and it’s a great way to dig down for a better understanding of things, but it’s not NEWS.
    Now, on the other hand, if you define objectively what a turning point is, and you show, with objective facts, that such a turning point has been reached, then it might be news. You might title it: Sex and power: Now is the turning point.
    Asking the question is simply an invitation to debate.

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    I’m wondering how this fullfils the mandate of “evidence-based journalism”. Yes, there’s lots of evidence that people are making accusations, and there’s pretty solid evidence that there’s a lot of truth to them. Dig up some more evidence or end the story there.

    But instead the article goes right into beating the “partriarchy” drum. There are quite a few quotes from people expressing opinions, but they’re all expressing the same opinion, the same viewpoint, the usual suspects, and the same solution. There are people who might see this as part of a broader untold story about abuse of power in general, not just males abusing power for sex. There might be stories about how women have abused power. I bet James Damore might have something to say there. I know I’ve witnessed it.

    But really, the whole notion of doing an “analysis” piece like this when our goal is evidence-based journalism is fraught with problems. I think the more we do it here, the more we’ll find ourselves in the same hole that every other news outlet is in.

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    What’s the old saying? For any headline in the form of a question, the answer is always ‘No’.

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    I wonder how this story would be elevated with a wider discussion of the male/male-identifying victims of these cases of harassment and assault? I feel that the fact that there are some men who have come out against their perpetrator, namely Anthony Rapp and the other young men accusing Kevin Spacey, is blown over in this article. I completely agree that the sexual misconduct against women is much larger, much more pervasive issue in America, but that does not mean that sexual assault against men and boys is less important. If this article wants to maintain its focus on the female/female-identifying victims, then perhaps we should consider changing the name? “Sex and Power” implies we are talking about all forms of sexual abuse in a power complex, which is not the case in this article. Other opinions, of course, are welcome!

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      Hi Spencer, thanks for the feedback. I do agree that there needs to be a wider discussion on male/male-identifying victims – it’s an issue that has been glossed over quite starkly during this whole debate and I agree it is not less important. There is always a danger with writing on these subjects in a concise way that elements get left out, which is of course not the aim. However, I really wanted to focus this piece on power, and power over women which is far more rampant. This doesn’t mean a piece on abuse against males could be on the cards. As for the title, it’s a good point. What would you change it to?

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        Couldn’t* be on the cards, I meant

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        You bring up great points, Lydia. Maybe a separate piece focusing on the male/male-identifying victims alone is the route to go. I do wonder, though, if Spacey’s presence at the head of the article is necessary? In my mind, I categorize him as a powerful sexual abuser of men and boys, specifically. Unless my awareness isn’t up to date, I think it has been only male victims coming out against him?
        As for a title, I think some emphasis on the focus of female victims in this piece would be helpful. Something like “Sex and Power: Is this turning point for women?” That’s pretty lame, I know. I just don’t want others like myself, interested in learning more about the accusations against Spacey and what that means for male/male-identifying victims of sexual assault to be misled by the title and the picture in any way.

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        “Sexual abuse of power by males in the spotlight”? Maybe something more like that?

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          Yes, Gareth, that does focus on the article’s point. I wonder, though, is that eye-catching enough? What’s more important in a title: Clarity or Class?

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