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Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on June 5, 2013

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-Read the excerpt below from the "Best of the Web" post by OpinionJournal.com's editor James Taranto.
-Read "Types of Media Bias" in the right column. Then answer the questions.

From a post by OpinionJournal.com’s editor James Taranto (original post date 5/22/13):

An example of subtle media bias is a headline that appears over an Associated Press story at the Seattle Times website (we think the headline is the Times’s): “Education Spending: Idaho Worst; Washington Below Average.” Here’s what the story says:

A report from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that Idaho remains at the bottom of public education spending.

The [Spokane, Wash.] Spokesman-Review reports that Idaho spent about $6,800 per student for the 2010-2011 school year. Only Utah spent less, at roughly $6,200 per student.

The headline writer was wrong to use the superlative without preceding it by “Second” or “Next to.” But more important, he used the wrong adjective. Idaho’s spending was the second-lowest,which would make it the second-best from the standpoint of the taxpayer.

But, you may ask, what about the children? Unlike recipients of cash or cash-equivalent benefits like Social Security or food stamps, you can’t measure the benefit of schools in terms of dollars. And this study makes no effort to gauge the quality of education. It could be that Idaho’s school system gives taxpayers an unusually good value for the money.

The only people for whom the lowest-spending state is the “worst” are those who are committed, either ideologically or self-interestedly, to pouring more money into schools as an end in itself. That would appear to be for whom the Seattle Times speaks.


Questions

1.  Does Mr. Taranto succeed in illustrating an example of bias by spin in a headline?  Explain your answer.

2.  Why is it important for news stories to provide accurate headlines?


Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the answers.
























Answer(s)

1.  Opinion question.  Answers vary.

2.  Headlines can greatly influence readers’ opinions about the news. In this example, the headline leads the reader to believe that spending less money per student on education = giving students a bad education.