Thursday, May 04, 2017

Biased News

Desiree Fairooz confronts Condoleeza Rice in 2007. She
attempted to intimidate her with red-stained hands, but Dr.
Rice responds with a fearless expression. (Guardian photo)
There are several techniques to bias a news article without lying. One way is to leave out important facts that may cause the reader to take the opposite position from the writer (example: advocates of compact fluorescent bulbs omitted mention of mercury poisoning).

Another is to bury countervailing information at the bottom of the article. Example from the Guardian.

Headline: Woman who laughed at Jeff Sessions hearing convicted for being 'disorderly'
Desired Reaction: someone was convicted for laughing at the Attorney General. He sounds like a hypersensitive jerk who throws his weight around.
Lead sentence: A jury in Washington has convicted a woman who was arrested after laughing during a confirmation hearing for the attorney general, Jeff Sessions.
Desired Reaction: Yep, the article matches the headline. Arrested for laughing? This is America!

Well, if you make it to paragraph 10 [bold added]:
A spokesperson for the jury that convicted Fairooz, who spoke to the Huffington Post on condition of anonymity, said: “She did not get convicted for laughing. It was her actions as she was being asked to leave.
While newspapers now take advocacy positions in the news section, most still retain enough journalistic ethics so as not to deliberately mislead. The Guardian isn't one of them.

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