February 27, 2005
When Bias Becomes a Lie
Just over a week ago, my Congressman, Maurice Hinchey, made a claim that Karl Rove was behind the fake documents scandal at CBS News.
Since then, I've been highly critical of the media, particularly with newspapers in Hinchey's 22nd District in their coverage of this on-going story. While watching the papers first ignore story, and then write about it in both news stories and editorials, I've come to the realization of just how damaging political bias can be to a news organization.
Even under this best-case scenario, liberal bias inherent in these organizations is so strong that it affects both news stories and editorials to the point that they severely misrepresent the actual series of events. A simple look at one local news story and one local editorial underscores my point.
Michael Kruse of the Times Herald-Record wrote a story that appeared exactly one week after Hinchey's Rovian conspiracy theory was first recorded. The story, "Hinchey loves the limelight" (free reg. required), slanted his article, by intent or by inherent bias, to the point of eclipsing the real story. Kruse does not once touch upon the key essential element that makes this story newsworthy; that Hinchey has accused Karl Rove of being behind the fake documents scandal with absolutely no solid evidence to support his claim.
Instead, Kruse presents a fawning piece that shows bloggers as faceless aggressors attacking a noble man of the people who is taking his lumps in his fight for the truth. Kruse seeks to turn Hinchey into a sawn-off Erin Brockovich.
Kruse is more than willing to play straightman to Hinchey, and plays along with Hinchey's "the administration is out to get me" fantasy. Doubt my characterization? Read the article. Hinchey's own staff couldn't have written it better.
And Kruse is not alone. In fact, when the story makes the editorial pages, it goes from bad to worse. David Rossie is the associate editor of the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin. His editorial, "Rep. Hinchey has no proof... so let's invade Rove's office" is tinfoil hat league.
Rossie firmly supports the "false, but accurate" claim about the fake documents (while conveniently offering no supporting evidence), and proves more than willing to pass along other dubious claims as proof of a pattern of behavior, even though he fails to provide factual basis for these claims, either. His pure spite and obvious hatred for all things conservative is almost Klannish in intensity as he mockingly refers to Bush as "God's instrument in the White House," and refers to "far right prattlers," in an apparent reference to anyone commenting on this issue who is not as liberal as himself.
Rossie, while cartoonish, is so rabidly anti-conservative that one has to wonder if any article of a political nature could pass through his desk without hopelessly compromising the objectivity of the story. He is not just an opinion writer, he is the associate editor, and his position and biases affirm that the Press & Sun-Bulletin is perhaps incapable of objective reporting. It is one thing to draw your own conclusions based upon your own personal biases, it is something far worse when you aren't provided a true accounting to base your personal opinion on.
I give each man the benefit of the doubt that they were honestly trying to write their stories with what they felt was objectivity, but in each case, their bias is apparent and overwhelming. In the Kruse article, he conveniently misses the main point of outrage of the entire issue. In the Rossie editorial, the issue is not only obfuscated, but the faulty premise is agreed to and furthered.
We all have our biases, but when one is a member of the media, he has a duty to attempt objectivity. Unfortunately, as these two examples show, when bias goes unchecked, it can slant a story far enough that it becomes a lie in its own right.
Update: "Talk on the Street," a section in the Times Herald-Record, shows another example of reporters selectively choosing minor parts of a story while completely missing the two major issues that made up the "meat" of Hinchey's appearance on Hannity's show. "Talk on the Street" said:
"Never one to shy from a fight, Hinchey got Hannity to admit the host made his own mistake recently by allowing someone who turned out to be a fake journalist onto the show. In return, Hannity kept cutting off Hinchey's mike and making fun of him."Actually, every listener I've talked to said that Hinchey is the one who brought up the "fake reporter" (Jeff Gannon/James Guckert, a reporter for the now defunct Talon News) as part of his still unsubstantiated raft of theories that Karl Rove was behind the CBS News meltdown.
Once again, a Record reporter purposefully refuses to acknowledge that Hinchey has yet to provide a single piece concrete evidence to support his claims. The Record also refuses to report the stunning charge that Hinchey threatened Hannity during the 5:20 commercial break, and that Hannity apparently caught Hinchey's threat on tape.
I'm going to try to contact the Sean Hannity Radio Show to see if Hannity "kept cutting off Hinchey's mike" as the Record'sBrendan Scott reports.
Will a retraction from the Record be in order?