Saturday, March 8, 2008

Star Light, Star Not-So-Bright

Democrats tire of hearing Republicans gripe about the vast left-wing, media conspiracy hellbent on depriving conservative Republicans of electoral victories. After sitting in on several conference calls for the conspiracy (hosted by the New York Times each Tuesday at 11 a.m. Eastern Standard Time), I've realized you can't paint "the media" with a broad brush. There are too many outlets. If one "shows a little slip" in favor of a particular candidate, it's usually an anomoly. What "the media" does do is attack a good controversy, just like political comedians do. When you run things, it's easier to be in the cross-hairs. If you think the Bush coverage has been biased, it's because he keeps putting himself out for ridicule each time he speaks without a script or gropes a female leader of another country during a G-7 meeting.

You think it was different when Clinton was in office? Don't you remember President Clinton getting a bit of bad coverage when one of his policies imperiled our economy and healthcare system. Specifically, his policy of accepting fellatio from an intern.

"The media" generally loves a good controversy. You give them one, and it's off to the races, regardless of affiliation. I'm troubled about the Indianapolis Star.

There are the obvious measures of journalistic objectivity, such as "Did we give both sides a chance to comment?" and "Will our story be used to induce America into a war against either the Spanish or the Vietnamese?"

But there are subtler ways bias can creep into a story. Does the story report ALL the facts? Does the headline (which is all most people read) reflect the story? And where is the story placed in the paper or on-line?

Once upon a time, the Star was the bane of existence for every soul with even a solitary thought of voting for a candidate to the left of Atilla the Hun. Now, Republicans scream that the Star has joined "the conspiracy." I'd say the Star finally started being "fair." And while I said good riddance to the Pulliams and all their ilk (enjoying the golf, Mr. Vice President?), doing a 180 is not good. For the first time, I saw what one might call "evidence" of such a flip.

I was reading Advance Indiana's critique of a Star story about Andre Carson's campaign returning a contribution to M. Yaqub Mirza, a man who had fallen under the federal eye in a terrorism financing investigation. I went to I scrolled down my page, and I couldn't find the story. Anywhere. The main stories for the day were:

Average Pay Up 8% for Ballard’s Cabinet

Hospital Loses Child Abuse Suit

Murder Charges Dropped in Durty Nelly Case

Steak ‘N Shake Rival Declares Landslide Victory

Then I scrolled down to my “Local News” where I got…

Man Sentenced to 60 Years in Kroger Killing

Metro Area Ducks Snowstorms Punch

Dems Offer Their Own Tax Plan

Indicted Gary Police Chief Back at Work

I then clicked on “Local News” to get expanded headlines…

I got a different story about a Carmel kid going to the national spelling bee, the list of all the stories above, and then finally, in 9th place, the story about the Carson donation.

I don't subscribe to the Star, and from what I hear, only 113 people still do. So while I cannot speak for what those folks saw, in the electronic world, most of us would have NEVER seen the story, even though we have a special election on Tuesday.

The story plays poorly for Carson, so you are probably wondering why I'm talking about it. The blog name is IPOPA, not Indy's Self-Serving Analysis. If, by actually saying I think the Star was biased today, it means I don't get invited to the Indiana Democratic Party State Convention, then OH DARN, I guess I'll have to do something else with my money and Saturday free time.

The value of an endorsement is directly proportional to the credibility of the endorser, and as I foresee a time when Democrats again field consistently high quality candidates, (a man can dream, can't he?), I want the Star's endorsements to matter in the future. Yes, the Star did endorse Elrod and crushed Carson by calling him the "fourth-best qualified" candidate in the Democratic primary field. This was huge because Republicans act like Julia Carson owned the paper. But then the Star turns around with this story placement.

Let me ask you all a simple question. As a reader of THE INDIANAPOLIS Star, which news item is more important for you? ANYTHING about the candidates for special election on Tuesday, OR a story about the police chief of Gary? Had the Star switched the order of just these two stories, it would have been on my webpage.

The Carson story was also UNDER one about a snowstorm that didn't actually hit anybody and UNDER another one about a clash of hamburger chains. Elrod, Carson, and Shepherd are going to either help tank or save our economy and either save or demolish social security. Shouldn't ANYTHING about one of these guys take precedence over steakburgers and milkshakes or a 7th grader who makes us feel stupid because he can spell "triumvirate" when we need to spellcheck "embarrass" because we keep forgetting how many r's are in it?

Just food for thought.


No comments: