Sunday, April 13, 2008

Media Unsatisfied with McCain on Housing

This is a quick note on media bias I noticed in my small-town paper. The AP article carried in the Merced Sun-Star under the headline "Uncertain economy awaits next president" by Tom Raum.

Innocent enough, right? I mean, there is the not-especially-subtle implication that the current President isn't doing anything to help the economy, but at least it's an issue that any candidate can address. Well, sort of. Clearly, this is an issue where it is more difficult to explain how a laissez-faire approach is likely to have a much more beneficial effect than a "let's spend taxpayer's money" approach. From that perspective, the assumption is that the government should be managing the market and that approach favors the statists.

There is also this little nugget near the beginning of the article, when discussing the possible impact of the length of a recession

[...] if the economy hits bottom before Inauguration Day and then turns up, the victor may be handed a rare gift: the chance to begin a presidency presiding over the early stages of a rebound.

I don't suppose that it would have been worth pointing out that that was the exact economy inherited by Bill Clinton, just one presidency ago? Or that, by contrast, the poor economy that faced George W. Bush at the beginning of his first term had started under Clinton/Gore?

But, the actual bias complaint I have comes later on in the article. After briefly describing the approaches outlined by Clinton, Obama, and McCain, author Raum summarizes the three thus:

The two Democrats are calling for a more activist role for the U.S. government to protect individuals. McCain is echoing standard GOP dogma of protecting markets and opposing bailouts.

Get it? The Democrats want to "protect individuals" while McCain merely echoes "standard GOP dogma". Now, how is it possible for a journalist to write a paragraph like that and not know he is biasing his characterization of the two approaches?

To be fair, the complete article (as per the above link) spends several "below the fold" paragraphs on public perception of the economy and even notes that some (in reality, most) economists are doubtful that anything proposed by the candidates will be relevant by the time they attain office. But none of that made it to the print edition (which ends after the "Since all three..." paragraph), leaving the reader with the impression that McCain basically isn't concerned about the economy and has no plan to address it.

Why McCain considers the press corps an ally is a mystery to me. They may love him on the campaign bus, but he can't expect that love to make it onto the printed page. At least not when his opponents are Democrats...

No comments: