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Sunday, September 04, 2016

Is it too much to ask?

The term "media bias" is familiar, used mostly by conservatives in reference to the tone and selection of stories that reflect progressive prejudices. To a certain extent, that is unavoidable. I don't expect the NYT to cover the same range of stories as the WSJ. The former will run 1,000 LGBTQ stories to every one in the latter, and the WSJ is going to skew far more towards business and economic reporting.

So far, so good.

But then there is the kind of bias that should flunk Journalism 101. Well, if I taught Journo 101, in any event. (So what follows is a pilot telling reporters how to do their jobs. When it's the other way around, the result is always rubbish. No reason to suspect any different when the shoe is other footed.)

By that, I mean always when doing straight reporting, and to a significant extent even in Op Ed pieces, the writer needs to include all the facts appropriate to the story's level of detail. A perfect example is the Michael Brown shooting in Fergusen. When referred to in the NYT, the late Mr. Brown is always referred to as an "unarmed teenager".

This is a perfect example of selecting from a set of facts at the same level as detail, so as to skew readers' conception of the situation. Omitted facts? Six foot five inches, 250 lbs, attacked the officer, tried to take the officers' weapon, battered a store clerk after shoplifting, shot charging the officer. Every time the NYT prefers one of those facts to the others, it is a violation of journalistic ethics. Or at least it should be, since persistently leaving out equally important facts is lying by omission.

Recently, the NYT ran Shooting in North Carolina Draws Comparisons to Trayvon Martin’s Death , which appeared in the US News section; that is, it is allegedly straight reporting, and not an Op Ed.

A man saying he was acting on behalf of a neighborhood watch program fatally shot a young, black man.

If that sounds to you like the 2012 case of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, which ignited a broad discussion on race relations in the United States, you wouldn’t be wrong. But this similar scenario played out in a case this week in Raleigh, N.C.

The reason that would sound to the rest of us like the that, is because the young black man was shot while attacking the white Hispanic [sic] man. Except not anything like that:

Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas, 20, was shot and killed just before 1 a.m. on Sunday, the police in Raleigh said. Chad Cameron Copley, 39, was charged with first-degree murder after the police said he fired a shotgun from inside his garage at Mr. Thomas, who was outside Mr. Copley’s home.

Where are the similar details about the Zimmerman/Martin case?

But wait, there's more. Chicago Has Its Deadliest Month in About Two Decades . The lead sentence:

In a city wrestling with a rise in gun violence …

Let's think about that for a second. Guns are violent? If so, then are they equally violent everywhere, or just especially in Chicago. This year, so far, is the deadliest in the last 20. Did guns suddenly get more violent?

Hey, wait a minute, if violent guns are the problem, then Chicagoans need to go elsewhere and buy non-violent guns. After all, those elsewheres are easily enough found, they aren't the places that murder 90 people a month.

Of course, the other way of looking at it, is the real story, the important story, really isn't gun violence, but rather conditions in black areas of Chicago that make them far more violent than almost anywhere else in the US. Of course, dealing with conditions is hard, and doesn't lend itself to promoting an agenda.

Today, on the NYT's front page is Flooding of Coast, Caused by Global Warming, Has Already Begun

Completely absent from this story is any record of changes in sea levels, the rates of change, how long the change has been going on, or any other causes of sea level change.

After a few seconds poking around, I found the Tybee Island Sea Level Rise Plan .

The full tide gauge record at Fort Pulaski indicates that long-term
sea-level rise is largely responsible for the increased number of tidal flood events on US
Highway 80.

The island has already experienced approximately 10 inches of sea-level rise since
1935 …

A graphic on page 17 shows that sea level has indeed increased — by a foot in the last 100 years, with a linear trend.

Why aren't those details in the NYT story?

It may well be that the WSJ commits similar serial crimes against Journo 101, and that because of my prejudices, I'm blind to them. But, despite that, I somehow doubt it. Also, it seems to me that the NYT has gotten markedly worse in this regard over the last year or so.

Why is it asking too much for reporters to report?

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