Like the Pot Calling the Kettle Black: Albuquerque Journal takes on “media bias”

October 6th, 2016 · No Comments · Fact Check, journalism

By Arthur Alpert

It boggles the mind.

Did you see it? I refer to the headline, “Charges of media bias have merit” atop an essay the editors at the Albuquerque Journal ran on the editorial page, prominently on the editorial page Sunday, Oct. 2.

The Albuquerque Journal charging bias! Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! Talk about chutzpah! Talk about double-talk!

Where did the editor (or editors) find the gall? As readers of this website know too well, they manage a Hearstian political broadsheet, censoring news that doesn’t fit the Journal’s political agenda; using “news columns” to conduct political campaigns; rewarding political friends and punishing political enemies by spinning “news” coverage and weighting opinion pages until they lean not conservative but far, far Right.

And now they inform us they’ve detected bias in the world?

I know we humans excel at self-deception, but can anybody be that blind? Or are they cynics, cold-eyed and self-aware? I don’t know.

The column is by the Journal’s Washington correspondent, Michael Coleman. It’s not his finest hour but consider the guy’s situation. It’s a plum of a job, he (like other Journal staffers) knows what his editors like and don’t and he walks a fine line.

I feel for Mr. Coleman but he shouldn’t be proud of joining the Far Right attack (see below) on moderator Lester Holt, the NBC anchorman, which he launches by relying on the testimony of Howard Kurtz. Kurtz works for Fox. Fox, not a journalistic enterprise, is a tool for tailoring information to advance a partisan cause. Ergo, building a case on Kurtz is a mistake.

The column has additional mistakes but rather than parse them, here’s a question. Why not lean on the Washington Post’s long-running, highly respected Fact Check operation?

I fear the answer may lie in what WaPo fact check reporters Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee wrote Sept. 27:

“In the first debate between presidential contenders Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Trump repeatedly relied on troublesome and false facts that have been debunked throughout the campaign. Clinton stretched the truth on occasion, such as when she tried to wiggle out of her 2012 praise of the Trans Pacific Partnership as a “gold standard.” But her misstatements paled in comparison to the list of Trump’s exaggerations and falsehoods.”

Gee, hard to convict Lester Holt on that evidence. They never even mentioned him.

Neither did Republican (and Reagan-acolyte) Peggy Noonan, who conceded in her Sept. 29 column in the Wall Street Journal that Hillary Clinton won the debate.

(Noonan’s essay was a lament, mostly, for what “the media” are doing to the political process and to an ancient practice called thinking. Right on, Peggy.)

Were the WaPo fact checkers and Noonan representative or outliers? I decided to survey the field. That was easy, thanks to Google – most observers gave Holt passing (if not excellent) grades, including Republicans and Democrats. But the consensus ended at the fault-line between conservatives and the Far Right. Only the latter targeted Holt.

Fox led the charge. Brent Bozell chimed in. So did neo-Nazi ex-KKK leader and Trump fan David Duke, who tweeted:

“Shamefully bias debate moderator, Lester Holt, has been married to his Jewish wife, Carol Hagen, since 1982.”

The Journal had already published an Op Ed essay Sept. 29 by Jay Ambrose, a Trump-backer, who not only assaulted Holt but also opined that Trump won the debate.

Could be, but a Washington Post story Oct. 2 reported on a WaPo/ABC poll this way:

“Almost three times as many Americans say Hillary Clinton won last Monday’s debate than Donald Trump, with the Democratic nominee regaining a clear favorability advantage over the Republican.”

It included a graph about the partisan split:

“Fully 83 percent of Democrats say Clinton won compared with just 24 percent of Republicans, with independents in the middle at 50 percent. Fewer than half of Republicans think Trump won (45 percent), while 25 percent say it was a draw and the rest had no opinion.

My italics.

So, to recapitulate, the Albuquerque Journal – and yes, it still boggles the mind – used a staffer to accuse others of bias. The Journal also bypassed professional reporters at the Washington Post in what looks like an effort to recast the Trump-Clinton debate in Mr. Trump’s favor. And worth noting, in that process the Journal found itself in disreputable company.

All of which is strange. This is the very same daily that pleaded with Mr. Trump to withdraw in an Aug. 5 editorial headlined, “Trump should step aside and let a statesman run”.

Do you detect a conflict between the Journal asking Trump to quit (on one hand) and abetting him in the “news” and opinion pages (on the other)?

Me, too, so let’s try to unravel it. But because this essay is long enough as it is, next time.

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