One too many?

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on October 24, 2012

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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 10/8/12):

The U.S. Supreme Court hear oral arguments [the week of October 8] in Fisher v. University of Texas, a case that challenges racial discrimination in college and university admissions. A decade ago, in Grutter v. Bollinger, the court held that such discrimination is constitutionally permissible in order to promote “the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body,” whatever those might be.

Abigail Fisher, the plaintiff in the case, applied to the University of Texas’ flagship Austin campus. Her grades and scores were good enough that she would have gotten in had she been from an “underrepresented” minority. But because she was white, she was rejected.

Here’s how her hometown paper, the Houston Chronicle, began a “news” story on the case over the weekend: “In the fall of 2008, the University of Texas enrolled 10,335 minority students, not including Asian-Americans. As far as Abigail Fisher was concerned, that was one too many.”

It’s not even plausible that as a high school senior, Fisher tallied up the number of minority students–being careful not to include Asian-Americans!–and decided that it would be better if it were 10,334 rather than 10,335.

Sure, reporter Mike Tolson didn’t mean that literally. What he did mean is that Fisher is hostile to minorities–a claim for which Tolson provides not a shred of evidence. Quite the contrary: She is quoted as saying (“in a videotaped interview posted on YouTube by her lawyers,” Tolson notes): “I was taught from the time I was a little girl that any kind of discrimination was wrong.”

It’s bad enough that Tolson is so brazenly biased in a news story (and, we should note, in favor of the government–so much for speaking truth to power). Smearing a young woman by falsely imputing to her invidious racial motives is simply despicable. It would be inexcusable even in an opinion piece. Tolson and the Chronicle owe Abigail Fisher, and their readers, an…apology.

Questions

1.  Which type of bias does Houston Chronicle reporter Mike Tolson display in his news report on Abagail Fisher, the plaintiff in the affirmative action case that went before the Supreme Court earlier this month?

2.  What is wrong with Mr. Tolson inserting his opinion/interpretation into his news report on Fisher v. University of Texas?


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
























Answer(s)

1.  Houston Chronicle reporter Mike Tolson displays bias by spin. Bias by spin occurs when the story has only one interpretation of an event or policy, to the exclusion of the other; spin involves tone – it’s a reporter’s subjective comments about objective facts.

2.  A news report should be factual and not include the reporter’s opinion.  Mr. Tolson should only have reported on the facts of the news item.   He inserted his opinion by implying that the plaintiff, prospective student Abigail Fisher is racist – that she thinks there are too many minority students enrolled at University of Texas Austin.  She did not say that.  Watch the video linked to in the excerpt.