Leave Feedback

BLOG: Shouldn't reporters pretend to be objective?

Tom Jackson • Apr 6, 2012 at 6:23 PM

Sometimes I miss the good old days, when newspaper reporters felt they had to at least try to hide their political bias. Many times nowadays they don't even try.

The other day, President Barack Obama complained about the U.S. Supreme Court's review of the president's health reform law. Obama said he's confident the Supreme Court "will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress."

The president's statement was completely false in two different ways.

The Supreme Court has been ruling on the constitutionality of laws for more than two centuries, so an adverse ruling would not be "unprecedented." (The president taught classes in law at a law school for 12 years. His speciality was constitutional law, so the concept of judicial review cannot be completely foreign to him.)

And the president's health reform bill only passed the House 219-212, even though Democrats held a comfortable majority. (It was Obama's biggest issue, and he participated in the lobbying effort to get the measure approved.)

So how did AP reporter Anne Gearan report on it in a piece that ran in Friday's Register?

"His statement Monday wasn't completely accurate, and the White House backtracked. But Obama was making a political case, not a legal one ... "

Not completely false, you understand. Just "not completely accurate."

Here's the first couple of sentences of the AP's story on Mitt Romney, printed on the next page:

"Don't expect Mitt Romney to spend much time trying to get voters to like him next fall.

"Instead, the likely Republican presidential nominee will probably rely on a ton of campaign cash and a barrage of nasty attack ads ripping into President Barack Obama for policies Romney says aren't helping the economy recover fast enough."

You'll notice the AP's deferential tone in the Obama piece appears to be absent when Romney is the subject.

The Romney reporter, Andrew Miga, appears to have the goods on Romney's previous negative political campaign. It's a good article. But if the AP wants to speak truth to power, shouldn't it do so with people who actually have power, and aren't just seeking it?

Another point. Democrats enjoy criticizing Fox News, the avowedly right-wing news network. (They call it a "news" network.)

I don't watch Fox News on TV. I suspect I wouldn't like it much.

But when you pay attention to mainstream news organizations, you can see why there's a market for a news network that slants to the right.

Recommended for You