President Bush has been facing criticism in the wake of the problems surrounding the relief efforts of Hurricane Katrina, which has ultimately caused some die-hard supporters to resort to the time-honored tradition of blaming media bias for their troubles.
This is a common theme, advanced by the White House itself to deflect criticism by saying “we’re not going to play the blame game.” Occasionally supporters from the Left will chime back a particular point, say, that The Denver Post endorsed President Bush for re-election, as evidence that the media trends conservative. Of course, some media entities (such as the conservative Fox News) are indeed inherently biased, but most discerning and politically-savvy viewers already know that.
But the truth about media bias in Colorado, I think, is with the individual.
In Colorado, there are columnists and editorial writers who are clearly on one side or the other. Vincent Carroll of the Rocky Mountain News consistently leans to the right, while Mike Littwin generally leans left.
There are extreme examples, of course, such as the News’ Mike Rosen, who leans so far to the right that he walks in circles; the Denver Post’s David Harsanyi is basically a Republican Party staffer; and the Post’s Diane Carman is absurdly biased towards Democrats.
Then there are those columnists who try to present a fair front but don’t always make it. This column from the News’ Peter Blake is basically a Republican Party newsletter, and when you look over the past couple of months, most of Blake’s columns are about Republicans — and written favorably.
People like to proclaim that journalists should be unbiased, and they’re right. But politicians should also be honest and cats shouldn’t scratch the hell out of your furniture when you spend so much money feeding them. Things aren’t always the way they should be. Journalists are humans, and humans have opinions. We’re all biased.
Sometimes, what looks like bias can just be an innocent decision. This story on 9News.com about Rep. Tom Tancredo was one of their top seven stories for most of the day on Thursday. Was this one of the seven biggest stories in Colorado on Thursday? Of course not. Is that because the web producers are biased or because they thought it might generate more interest?
Sometimes, bias can appear by accident. Take a look at two recent headlines about President Bush on 9News.com. Each story was written by a different person:
This isn’t necessarily a biased headline, but it is very misleading. Bush didn’t make Roberts the new chief justice; he just indicated his preference that Roberts get that post.
Now look at another headline that may have been written innocently but seems to be clearly biased:
This headline is pretty flattering for President Bush — and it’s quite a bit misleading. President Bush, after all, is getting much of the blame for the slow and inefficient response to Hurricane Katrina because it happened on his watch. But in reading this headline you would think that the response problems had nothing to do with Bush or his decisions. The White House’s standard line has been to deflect criticism by blaming local authorities, and the writer of this 9News.com story seems to have bought that hook, line and proverbial sinker.
So the next time you want to trot out media bias as the cause of your favorite politician’s troubles, remember that in many cases it’s media bias that does just as good a job propping up that very politician. Like most things in life, bias works both ways.