Below is a typical — indeed quintessential — example of this bias — a bias that is liberal. But it’s also a biased article for additional reasons that most people don’t understand — I’ll discuss below. The reporter and their editors will be offended and yet puzzled why I would see bias in this pro-tax article. Let me help.
First, the article (see below). To summarize, it’s a 15 paragraph SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE story that could have been (and maybe WAS) essentially written by the city of Chula Vista’s PR flack. It’s probably a regurgitated press release, an ode touting the need for a higher sales tax. The reporter dutifully reported what the city wanted him to say — quoting the proponents extensively.
There is not a SINGLE sentence referencing the opposition, or the reasons that they oppose the higher Chula Vista sales tax. And yes, there is a grassroots, organized opposition — they wrote the ballot arguments against the tax.
Is this media bias? Intentionally or not, it is. More important, it’s the TYPICAL news story about a proposed tax increase — not the exception. Here’s the proof.
Imagine that the opposition to the tax held a press conference. Imagine the press corps flocked to cover the press conference (an “iffy” assumption). At the conclusion of the press conference, the reporters would have then called or interviewed the proponents of the tax — asking them to comment extensively. Both sides would have been presented in the stories.
I have been providing this sort of grassroots opposition to higher taxes for 30+ years. I cannot recall a SINGLE news story covering our press conferences where the opposition was not quoted as well.
Mind you, presenting the full story is what a true reporter SHOULD do! But when government reaches out to the press to push more spending and/or higher taxes, the press seldom seeks an alternative viewpoint. And if they do contact the opposition, the result is typically a single “Oh, BTW” paragraph in a 15-25 paragraph story. The only exception is if politicians are included in the opposition. Then the press covers the taxpayer advocates more extensively — though FAR from equally.
But there are two additional factors seldom considered that create this bias — a bias that is statist as much as liberal.
1. Reporters harbor a certain “deference to authority.” Rather than being suspect of luminaries — even those with financial/political motives for taking positions — reporters like be associated with and quoting those in authority. In addition, most politicians are masters at inflating reporters’ egos. These reporters feel that including luminaries in a story lends legitimacy to their (the reporters’) authenticity. Hence we find scribes rushing to politicians and (invariably liberal) academics for quotes — ignoring the pundits’ ideological proclivities.
2. Reporters and editors work under the constant pressure of deadlines. Plus some are simply lazy and seek easy solutions (like most of us, actually). They feel they can’t spare much time — seeking out alternative viewpoints — if the dissident “fruit” is not hanging low.
BTW, as the grassroots opposition, I learned how to deal with such laziness. Consider this example:
While opposing a pro sports subsidy, I found that the San Diego City Attorney was holding a press conference in the city hall conference room, touting this unwise spending of taxpayer funds. I quietly joined the reporters there. I did NOT disrupt his presentation, or even ask questions (I’m a deferential guy!). But at the conclusion of the conference, I stood up and announced to all (the room was FULL of TV cameras and press reporters) that “Now to hear the OTHER side, come down the lobby where I’ll hold a brief press conference.” Sure enough, ALL the press, radio and TV folks dutifully followed me down to the lobby and we had a fully-attended press conference — much to the consternation of my opponents. I used this political judo (flipping the weight/influence of my opponents to my advantage) a number of times over the years. Few would attend a press conference I would call, but they WOULD hear me out after the OTHER guys’ press conference. Low hanging fruit!
When the MSM protests when accused of disseminating “fake news,” it’s often not FALSE information that they are reporting (though their sources may be presenting bogus information) — it’s the OMITTED information that makes their stories dishonest. It’s why those of us who have spent decades reading stories about issues that we know a lot about have a high distrust of what we read in the papers and see on TV. Skepticism is a trait I’d like to see more widely in evidence.
“The backup plan is to do what we’ve done for a number of years and that’s kick the can down the road,” she said Thursday. “We can’t afford to do that. That would require us to keep the status quo and seeing decreasing service to the community, and I don’t think that’s what the public wants.”
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To read the rest of the story, go to the link.