Friday, June 11, 2004
Your Bias Is Showing [UPDATED]

Okay, this is just screaming for attention.

Reuters headline:
"National Mourning Helps Bush Politically For Now"

And look what shows up inside the story (emphases mine) -

A week of national mourning for Ronald Reagan has helped President Bush politically by shunting Democrat John Kerry to the sidelines and driving bad news from Baghdad off the front pages.

This week's burst of Reagan nostalgia, which included a flood of tributes to the Republican icon and reminders of Bush's claim to Reagan's legacy, could provide at least a short-term political boost for the president in his race for re-election.
First, they need to make up their minds. Either it "has helped" or it "could" help - it can't be both. One or the other, gentlemen. Second, leaving aside the fact that when John Kerry isn't in the headlines his poll numbers get a boost (read: he doesn't do well when he's in the public eye), notice that it's a completely unnecessary story! They are literally reporting on the effect that news stories are having on...the news! <gasp!> Who wouldda thunk it?!

I can just see the editors sitting around their conference tables:
"Say, Jones, this 'honor the dead President' thing is really going on a long time - do you think that it'll help Bush by, perhaps, shunting Democrat John Kerry to the sidelines and driving bad news from Baghdad off the front pages?"

"Well, I dunno, Smith. It might. For now [insert evil cackling here]. But once we run this story on how national mourning is moving the 'important' news off the front page, things should be back to normal."
Dear God in Heaven. This is so blatant it's disgusting.

[Headline current as of 11:30pm EDT; image below - Ed.]

Over at CJR Campaign Desk, Brian Montopoli catches this, too.
The initial claim that Bush has benefited politically from Reagan's death is presented as an absolute in the headline and lede, but in the second sentence it mysteriously transforms into nothing more than a maybe, maybe not. That sets us up nicely for the rest of the piece, which in fact presents no real evidence to support either headline or lede.

This could be either the work of an overzealous editor, or of a reporter intent on souping up his story to make the wire -- after all, the more strongly-worded initial assertion is certainly more eye-catching than the speculative follow-up.

But that's no excuse for offering us a statement that you can't back up.
No excuse, indeed. And notice the implicit acknowledgement by the "Journalism Watchdog" (Campaign Desk's avowed purpose) that reporters are going to hype their headlines. That reporters do so isn't surprising, of course, but the acknowledgement is notable. Yet another piece of evidence for the 'Trust No One' pile.
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