Friday, November 17, 2006

Don't overlook continuing bias at the Seattle Times

See update at the bottom.
Sent this morning to Seattle Times Editor at large Michael Fancher:

Good morning Mr. Fancher,

I wanted to just say "Hi" and say I'm still here and still troubled with the Times coverage, even in this post-election world. I don't read many Seattle Times stories, but it's so interesting that when I do I see such questionable journalistic integrity.

First let me say I've had my share of experience with local papers and trying to get fair coverage. I and others opposed a totally corrupt series of land use decisions in King County and learned the frustration in trying to get balanced reporting from the Times and other local papers, and one thing that was made abundantly clear was the effort by the press to quote all sides, if only all sides within the governmental structure. And this is what leads me to question, again, the coverage of another political story out of Washington DC.

Today's criticism is related to the coverage of Nancy Pelosi's failure yesterday to get Jack Murtha elected as House Majority Leader:

Pelosi loses first big fight: Democrats shun Murtha

So when looking at the quotes in this story about the first real failure of the Demcorat Pelosi to get her handpicked guy, who did the Times quote?

Anonymous House Democrat
Barney Frank, Democrat
Nancy Pelosi, Democrat
Jack Murtha, Democrat
Rep. Stephen Lynch, Democrat
Rep. Allen Boyd, Democrat
Rep. Maxine Waters, Democrat
Rep. Kendrick Meek, Democrat

And that is it. In a story about the failure of the newly elected Democrat Speaker of the United States House of Representatives to get her handpicked guy elected, not a single Republican is quoted on this failure. Not one, while no fewer than 8 Democrats are quoted.

Now we both know that if parties were reveresed, the Times would have gone out of its way to highlight quotes from Democrats blasting a Republican speaker who had failed in her first act of leadership, but not here. There is no doubt that such quotes from Democrats would have brutally ripped a Republican speaker and even gone so far as to misrepresent the significance of this defeat for political gain. But the Times has effectively kept the coverage of this Pelosi defeat between Democrat colleagues of the Speaker.

There is no balance in this story, and it certainly appears that the Times is trying to minimize the damage of this defeat by keeping the conversation only between Democrats. I'm not arguing that that failure is being covered up or excused, but I am arguing that the damage is being controlled by keeping Republicans out of it. That certainly appears to be unfair, lazy, slanted, or all of the above.


So how pervasive is the bias problem in the old media? If you read the bottom of this Times story you see the sources Times reporters pulled from in crafting this masterpeice, including The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and McClatchy Newspapers (that owns a bunch of other papers). Well I took a quick look at the Sun, Post and LA Times curious whether the Seattle Times had employed one of it tactics where they simply cut out from other stories what they don't want their readers to see.

It was the Washington Post that was the principal source for the quotes.

Apparently the Seattle Times was not alone in its decision not to quote any Republicans, because neither the Baltimore Sun, Washington Post, or LA Times bothered to talk to a single Republican in their stories either.

So how pervasive does the bias appear in the old media looking at this one story?

But then again maybe I am missing the point. I never studied journalism. Maybe it is a taught journalistic practice to apply a different standard of reporting based on political affiliation and not "bias" at all? That would certainly explain why liberal reporters and editors so easily deny being biased.

Or maybe it's exactly what it looks like!

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