Tebow v. Collins: Media bias at work

Sports writing has a rich and distinguished history, with celebrated writers like Red Smith and A. J. Liebling. Until the last few years it has also been free of political infection. Consider the reportage on Tim Tebow, who signed with the New England Patriots today. A Google news search on “Tebow polarizing” reveals that many news outlets repeated the Associated Press’s characterization of Tebow as “polarizing.” The Columbia (Missouri) Daily Tribune entitled their story, “Patriots decide to take chance on Tebow, sign polarizing QB.” The McClatchy papers have been characterizing Tebow as “polarizing” for years. For example, at the end of April the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram proclaimed: “future cloudy for polarizing QB.” 

The AP usually reserves the epithet “polarizing” for political figures like Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood or Michele Bachmann. There is of course nothing at all polarizing about Tebow (or Bachmann.) It is an invention of the secular-progressive media intended subtly to sway opinion. Left-wing journalists typically use the same terminology and make the same points, as if they were reporting from identical talking points. (Remember the Journolist?) The New-England based CatholicCulture.org posted a brief story, Why is Tim Tebow a ‘polarizing’ figure?  Their answer, which should be obvious: “because he is a Christian.”

Journalists have long used the term “controversial” to create suspicion about people of whom they disapprove. “Polarizing” may simply be an intensifier of “controversial,”  useful for expressing strong disapproval.

We find it very interesting that the AP sports writers who sign their articles, such as Howard Ulman and Barry Wilner, stuck to straight reportage and did not use the term ‘polarizing.’

Contrast this with the fawning over the Washington Wizards center Jason Collins as he announced, “I’m black. And I’m gay.” He received a congratulatory telephone call from President Obama, a message of support from President Clinton, and a cover on Sports Illustrated. But if you believe that homosexual behavior is sinful, like Chris Broussard, ESPN commentator on pro basketball, you might get into trouble with the intolerant advocates of tolerance. Perhaps the adjective “polarizing” would fit them. The Puffington Host reported on the Broussard persecution this way:

ESPN’s embattled NBA reporter incited a firestorm of controversy earlier this week after describing groundbreaking gay NBA player Jason Collins as a man living in “open rebellion to God.Troglo



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