BLOG: Shouldn't reporters pretend to be objective?

Tom Jackson
Apr 6, 2012

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.

 

Comments

FruGalSpender

"The president's statement was completely false in two different ways"  hey tom, you had better watch what you say or obama and holder may send in the storm troopers after you. years ago, there was somebody who spoke out against the the first world war and was sent to prison for sedition. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene_V._Debs#Arrest_and_imprisonment "Debs' speeches against the Wilson administration and the war earned the undying enmity of President Woodrow Wilson, who later called Debs a "traitor to his country."[33] On June 16, 1918, Debs made a speech in Canton, Ohio, urging resistance to the military draft of World War I. He was arrested on June 30 and charged with 10 counts of sedition."   i bet that you are a libertarian, tom.  maybe that is what i am too but i don't belong to the libertarian party.

Unassumer

No.  Reporters should always be objective period.  And so should everyone else.  When emotions and personal opinion get into the mix, stories get distorted and overblown.  Always follow the ASSUME rule.

wiredmama222

The role of a reporter is to report the news, not give his or her spin on what is happening.  When the reporter interjects himself into the mix that story cesses to be the news and becomes more an essay about what he thinks is happening than actual reporting. 

That is the problem with all the news today.  Want to really see the news, turn off the sound and watch the video alone.  Then try and guess what just happened.  Nine times out of ten you will be far more accurate than what they TELL you you think you just saw. 

Taxed Enough Already

 This is exactly why Fox  has quickly moving into first place. NBC, CBS, ABC, and CNN, which I do watch for balance, are SOOOO left it's amazing they can call themselves objective.

eriemom

 Actually President Obama's comment was about how republicans have a accused some of being "activist judges" over the past decade. Just calling the kettle black. Go back and listen to the entire statement, not just the phrase quoted.

tk

I have long ceased to expect objective reporting from you Mr. Jackson.

Exxcellent

The Register objective? HAHAAAHAHA.  As much as Westerhold kisses Shenigo's butt, we can clearly see there is no objectivity there. Talk about one sided reporting.

thinkagain

The Obama Supreme Court comment correctly translated:
“Waa waa waa I didn’t get my way and this will hurt my chances to be elected. I will now turn the story away from my incompetence, like I have done before, and divert my failures towards anyone and everyone who gets in my way!!”

AJ Oliver

Mr. Jackson should read up on the subjects he addresses if he wants to be taken seriously.  There is ample evidence out there that AP is biased to the right, not the left.  And the AP bias, as in Fox "news", is not just in tone, but in making stuff up.  Here is just one example (from Common Dreams). 

"On February 29, 2004 AP widely reported that President Aristide was ousted by Haitian rebels and that the United States provided an escort to take him out of the country to a safe asylum. Within 24 hours an entirely different story emerged through independent radio. Instead of the US being the supportive facilitator of Aristide's safety, Pacifica Radio News reported that Aristide was actually kidnapped by US forces. AP quickly changed their story."

Jackson should also be aware of the several recent academic  (several at the Univ. of Maryland) studies which showed that Fox viewers were much more likely to be "misinformed" - a polite way of saying they believed the lies that Fox told them. 

And I have to agree with the writer above about Register bias as well - recall their fawning coverage of the Marina District. 

FruGalSpender

"The Obama Supreme Court comment correctly translated:
“Waa waa waa I didn’t get my way and this will hurt my chances to be elected. I will now turn the story away from my incompetence, like I have done before, and divert my failures towards anyone and everyone who gets in my way!!”  i agree

Erie Countian

Your own bias is showing, Mr. Jackson. And don't get all preachy about objective reporting when, in actuality, very few stories in the Register concerning city and county politics, the Sandusky Police Department or other local issues are written without a biased slant on the Register's part.