Don't Think Press Bias Exists?
Here is but one of a multitude of examples of press bias in today's media, contained in a story by Associated Press Writer Deb Reichmann:
"President Bush, trying to defend his war strategy, declassified intelligence Tuesday asserting that Osama bin Laden ordered a top lieutenant in early 2005to form a terrorist cell that would conduct attacks outside Iraq — and that the United States should be the top target."
Just in case you didn't notice the bias, it was the phrase "trying to defend his war strategy," and the use of the term "asserting." That phrase and that word are not legitimate parts of a properly written news story; the phrase is the opinion of the writer, and the term is a loaded one, intended to give credence to the opinion.
Consider the sentence without those elements: "President Bush declassified intelligence Tuesday indicating that Osama bin Laden ordered a top lieutenant in early 2005 to form a terrorist cell that would conduct attacks outside Iraq — and that the United States should be the top target." That is a politically neutral and factual statement.
News stories should include nothing more than verifiable facts and information, and leave the consumers to determine for themselves what the information means. Was President Bush really "trying to defend his war strategy," by "asserting" that bin Laden did this or that, or was he merely making public information relevant to the issue of terrorist activity? Ms. Reichmann relieves readers of the responsibility of answering that question by telling them the answer: "Mr. Bush was trying to justify the Iraq war, and don't you dare think otherwise." Having delivered that message in the first sentence of the story, Ms. Reichmann has set the stage for readers to accept her premise that Mr. Bush is propagandizing the American people.
Now, Mr. Bush may indeed be attempting to sway public opinion to his way of thinking, and in fact I would be surprised to find that he wasn't. But if he is, it is not the job of a mere reporter to decide that for the rest of us, and both Ms. Reichmann and her editors are supposed to know better.
It would be perfectly acceptable, even responsible, for Ms. Reichmann to offer a contrary opinion from a legitimate source—a Democrat Congressman or Senator, say—and leave it to the consumers of her report to decide which side of the story they believe.
Doing that, however, may not produce the reaction that liberals in the media want, so dishonest reporters like Ms. Reichmann stack the deck in their favor by slanting the reporting. And if you think that there aren't many Americans who would be taken in by this tactic, you are flat wrong.
Technorati Tags: Press Bias, Iraq War, Journalism