Monday, October 16, 2006

More Bias at the Seattle Times


Last July when disgraced Spokane Mayor Jim West died, the Seattle Times felt compelled to take the obituary they reported on a Saturday and change the headline to identify West as a Republican.

Former Spokane Mayor Jim West diesJim West, Republican politician, dead at 55

The obituary article itself, used both days under both headlines, also identified West as a Republican twice. And while I'm certaianly not arguing that it shouldn't, the move by the Times to identify West in the headline appeared to me to be a little too much, considering another article at the time that I used to challenge the Times with bias. In that article, the Times had neglected to identify the party affiliation of another mayor, this time in San Jose, California who was booked on fraud, bribery and conspiracy charges.

I wrote Seattle Times editor David Birdwell and I called him on the West headline. His response was:
Please understand that we don't sit at our desks and try to think of ways to make Democrats look good and Republicans look bad. I know what went into that headline because I was the editor who handled page one this morning. West was a former majority leader at the state level. His party affiliation was important to note.
I've already written Birdwell again for a comment on the following story, but I'm not holding my breath for an admission of bias in this story: Like our last exchange, I expect the same lame excuse and then he'll be too busy to back it up. Oh well, I'll let you all decide for yourself.

First openly gay congressman dies at age 69

This story is about the death Saturday of another disgraced politician. This time Democrat Gerry Studds. Studds' name has resurfaced recently in calls of hypocrisy made against Democrats by Republicans because he had his own sexual relationship with a teenage page in 1983. But unlike the rabid attacks by Democrats and the MSM in the Foley matter, Studds was welcomed back to Congress after his censureship by his Democrat colleagues with standing ovations. Back then Democrats clearly didn't have too much a problem with molestation of a "child" by a homosexual congressman, but suddenly it's a big problem for the party of Studds and Mel Reynolds, who in 1994 was indicted and later convicted of sex with minors himself. In 1994, unlike the Foley scandal, the MSM could hardly get excited about Reynolds indictement and conviction, with only a couple evening news reports on ABC, NBC and CBS.

Note the headline of this story? See any sign of Studd's party affiliation? I guess Birdwell and the Times didn't think it "important". Certainly not as important as a former state legislator who became mayor of spokane, huh?

Don't even bother reading the story, because despite this being an obituary with Studd's life described, the Associated Press didn't feel the need to identify his party, nor did the Times editors in reusing this article to report the death in the fair and balanced Seattle Times.

I wonder if Birdwell understands that when an editor feels it is important to identify the party of a Republican pervert, but then doesn't feel it is important to identify the party of a Democrat pervert, that he is displaying personal bias? Personal bias then becomes media bias when it impacts what and how a story is reported, or whether it is reported at all. Biased reporters and editors can make all the excuses they want, but every once in a while two very similar and equitable situations come along that make all their excuses empty and laughable.

Bias at the Times? They can deny it until hell freezes over, but unequal treatment in the media is here, it's obvious, and the Foley coverage during this pre-election pahse is just the icing on any allegation of MSM bias.


I heard back from Birdwell. Here are some of his comments:

The cutline identified him as a Democrat. That's more visible than the story. If I wanted to hide it, I wouldn't have published a story in the SUNDAY newspaper, by far our biggest of the week.

One other thing: I might put more credibility in your claims of bias if you weren't the ONLY one among our 450,000 readers to make such a claim.

I'm tired of people on the extremes of the political spectrum claiming that people don't read newspapers because of some alleged bias. More people than ever are reading newspapers. You have no idea how many read our Web site, and the number increases significantly every single month. If newspapers are hurting, it's because too many people are too cheap to buy newspapers. They don't have to, so they don't. Whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, newspapers are the medium most inclined to make an effort to present both sides. And don't link the editorial pages or letters to the editor to me. I have nothing to do with those. Excuse me for not giving your opinion more credence. I'm tired of being criticized by people who are BIASED against newspapers. Have a nice day.

Comforting to know that we have such open-minded progressives deciding what is important and what isn't in the print media, huh?

No comments: