Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Washington Post: Covering or Slanting the News

Yesterday, I wrote about a despicable case of media bias. In that case, the author's own words gave them away. Most media bias is done in far more subtle ways. For instance, which stories are covered and even where each story is placed within the confines of a newspaper is the most common way in which the Media slants the news.

First, let's go through a basic third grade equivalent journalism basics. Since most people begin at page one, the most important stories should be placed there. Furthermore, since we all read from top to bottom, the most important story should furthermore be placed at the top.
The way in which many in the media slant the news through story placement is by placing important stories that run counter to their philosophy deep within the newspaper. This is called burying a story.

The worst offender, in my opinion, is the New York Times. Several examples come to mind. For instance, when Zapatero won the Spanish election for Prime Minister, the Times placed this story in the front of their newspaper. Zapatero is perceived to be a political opponent of George Bush of course. On the other hand, when John Howard, a Bush ally, got re elected in Australia, that story was buried on page 14. The worst example was when the Times buried the break up of the plot to bomb was buried in the metro section. The Times wanted any perceived victory for Bush in the GWOT to be buried where no one read about.

Well, in the latest installment of slanting the news through story placement, we have the Washington Post . They ran four different stories related to the Iraq war yesterday. The first which was not only at the top of page one but also had its headline highlighted in red was another in a series about roadside bombs.

On Aug. 3, 2005, the deadliest roadside bomb ever encountered by U.S.
troops in Iraq detonated beneath a 26-ton armored personnel carrier, killing 14
Marines and revealing yet another American vulnerability in the struggle against
improvised explosive devices.

"Huge fire and dust rose from the place of the explosion," an Iraqi witness
reported from the blast site in Haditha, in Anbar province. In Baghdad and in Washington, the bleak
recognition that a new species of bomb -- the underbelly, or "deep buried," IED -- could demolish any combat vehicle in the U.S. arsenal
"was a light-bulb moment for sure," as a Pentagon analyst later put
it.

Of the 81,000 IED attacks in Iraq over the past 4 1/2 years, few proved
more devastating to morale than that "huge fire" in Haditha. At a time when
coalition casualties per IED steadily declined, even as the number of bombs
steadily increased, the abrupt obliteration of an entire squad -- made up mostly
of reservists from Ohio -- revealed that the billions of dollars being spent on
heavier armor and other "defeat the device" initiatives had clear
limits.

Haditha provided a light-bulb moment for insurgents as well. During the
next year, underbelly attacks just in the Marine sector of western Iraq would
increase from a few each month to an average of four per day. By early summer of
this year, the underbelly IED -- considered a specialty of Sunni bombers -- was
killing more American troops in Iraq than all other variants of roadside bombs
combined.


Clearly, this story has a negative connotation and the Post placed at the top of page one. Then there was the story just below about Blackwater that ran just below the first.

Minutes after noon on Sept. 16, Ali Khalil drove his black motorcycle
toward Nisoor Square. Three days earlier, the 54-year-old blacksmith and father
of six children had felt safe enough in the capital to reopen his
shop.

Osama Fadhil Abbas, a 40-year-old car dealer, was approaching the square in
his white truck, on his way to wire $1,000 to Dubai.

Mehasin Muhsin Kadhum, a 46-year-old doctor, and her eldest son, Ahmed
Haitham, 20, were nearing the square in their white sedan, after a morning of
errands that included picking up college application forms for Kadhum's
daughter.

From the southeast, along a road that leads from the Green Zone, a convoy of four armored Blackwater USA vehicles also made its way to the square.

Fifteen minutes later, the convoy sped away through a thick cloud generated
by smoke bombs, leaving behind a tableau of bullet-pocked cars and broken lives.
The events of that afternoon are still contested, but what is clear is that many
of those killed and wounded were civilians struggling with the vicissitudes of
their turbulent nation.


Again, we have a story with another negative connotation and both lead the coverage for the entire newspaper. The plethora of Iraq related stories found on page one of yesterday's
Washington Post wraps up with this poll that shows most Americans favor cutting off funding for Iraq.

Most Americans oppose fully funding President Bush's $190 billion request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a sizable majority support an expansion of a
children's health insurance bill he has promised to veto, putting Bush and many
congressional Republicans on the wrong side of public opinion on upcoming
foreign and domestic policy battles.

The new Washington Post-ABC News poll also shows deep dissatisfaction with the president
and with Congress. Bush's approval rating stands at 33 percent, equal to his
career low in Post-ABC polls. And just 29 percent approve of the job Congress is
doing, its lowest approval rating in this poll since November 1995, when
Republicans controlled both the House and Senate. It also represents a 14-point
drop since Democrats took control in January.


So, if we are keeping score, that is three negative Iraq related stories all in one day. Now, we find this story buried on page 14 about troop and civilian deaths being down sharply.

The numbers of U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians reported killed across the
country last month fell to their lowest levels in more than a year, a sharp
decrease in violent deaths that American military officials attribute in part to the thousands of
additional soldiers who have arrived here this year.

The death toll for Iraqi civilians fell sharply in September, according to
Iraqi government and U.S. military figures. One count from Iraq's Health Ministry put the monthly death toll at 827
civilians, a 48 percent drop from the total in August, according to an official
who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the
statistics.

The downward trend in victims of violence was mirrored by dropping
fatalities among U.S. soldiers. By month's end, at least 66 U.S. soldiers were
killed, the lowest monthly total since 65 died in August 2006, and about half
the number who died during the deadliest month this year, according to
icasualties.org, a Web site that tracks military deaths in Iraq.


There is a great anecdote: if a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it fall, did it really fall?
Well, if there is good news from Iraq, but no one reads about it, will it matter? Here is how Stanley Kurtz of the National Review saw it.

Today, on the front page of The Washington Post, we see the third in a
three-part series
on roadside bombs in Iraq. The stories in this series have been centered on the
top half of the page and highlighted in red (a device I don’t recall seeing
before). Next to that is a huge headline about allegations of killings In Iraq
by Blackwater. Below that is a headline that reads "Most in Poll Want War
Funding Cut." Meanwhile deep inside the paper, on page A14, we find the
following article: "U.S. and Civilian Deaths Decrease Sharply in Iraq: American
Military Credits Troop Influx." True, nestled between the other screaming
headlines on page one, there is a brief minuscule teaser for this far more
positive story about Iraq. Yet the bias here is clear.

If the top story is Iraq, then I don’t see how you can put those three
stories on the front page, while burying the other one on page 14.


I believe that we must confront each case of media bias head on. This is one of those cases. If you are as disgusted as I am, please go here and exercise your own first amendment rights.

3 comments:

Todd Anthony said...

Excellent analysis. I personally get a kick out of the Leftists that write as if 1.) they know what they're talking about; 2.) could pull their heads out of their *sses long enough to know what's going on; and 3.) they're military experts. The second one is my personal favorite.

mike volpe said...

They may or may not know what they are talking about, however they know exactly what they are doing. This arrangement didn't happen by accident. This happened so that readers would be exposed to a plethora of bad news and not bother to read long enough to find the good news. That is why polls are what they are. I don't get a kick out of it at all, and I urge you to go to the link and let the Post know how you feel. Like I said, we must confront each piece of media bias one at a time, head on.

Faultline USA said...

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