With the competition for the Republican presidential nomination heating up, we can expect a stepped-up payload of bad reporting. For example, you can read about a recent case of fraudulent reporting about Scott Walker from the New York Times here and here.
Now with the Brian Williams scandal front and center, we might be tempted to think that lack of accuracy and truthfulness are the main issues. However the problem with Williams and his fellow lefties is not just falsehoods or embellishments, nor is it limited to accepting sloppy research if it puts conservatives in a bad light. A major problem is their judgement about what is newsworthy. As the managing editor of NBC News Williams determined that the Benghazi cover-up, Solyndra, or the IRS targeting of conservative organizations leading up to the 2012 elections were just not very newsworthy and so were hardly reported at all. Stories important to Democrats were more numerous and often highlighted.
Today’s journalists are well aware they are criticized for lack of objectivity. They will still occasionally slip in a falsehood or misquotation or insert a gratuitous editorial comment. They are well aware that there are other ways to make a biased news story appear neutral. Today we want to discuss the technique of changing the focus of the story to reflect a liberal point of view. A good example of this occurred in Massachusetts as this bluest of states just elected a Republican governor, Charlie Baker. So how did liberal journalists frame their reportage of this transition from Democrat to Republican? Right: the focus of the story is that Deval Patrick leaves office, not that Baker enters it. This is a very insidious kind of bias as it leads many, notably the low-information ‘independents,’ to think that the liberal lens is the right one. Everything in a story may be true, but since even the wrong lens determines the ‘narrative,’ it can be very effective. Raising doubt and questions is usually more effective than outright lying.
A great example of point-of-view distortion is seen in a recent Associated Press story about Jeb Bush, who now is fully in the presidential race and highly newsworthy. Unsurprisingly, the AP reporters do not set out to present a fair profile of the candidate. They frame their story to bring out Democrat criticisms of Mr Bush. The point of view adopted is not that of a neutral observer, much less of Bush, but of his Democrat opponents. Thus the story’s title:
Everything in this story is true, or can be plausibly argued as such, yet because of its point of view it reeks of leftwing bias. Here are the first two paragraphs:
Mitt Romney opposed the government’s rescue of U.S. automakers. So did Jeb Bush.
Both worked in finance and backed the Wall Street bailout. Both are advocates of tax cuts that Democrats contend only benefit the wealthy and big business.
The first two words are “Mitt Romney.” Is the story not about Jeb Bush? Note that “Wall Street” was bailed out, while Detroit was ‘rescued.’ Both Romney and Bush may have backed the Wall Street bailout; but was their thinking the same? Both may support tax cuts; but which tax cuts will Bush campaign on? (We suspect he will be for tax reform.) Yes, it is true that Democrats did draw these parallels. But we cannot then say the story is objective. Profiling Jeb Bush through the lens of his Democrat opponents is of course not going to give a balanced, fair, objective view.