Over the next couple of days, I will be giving a primer on how to read the Los Angeles Times without getting bamboozled by its liberal bias.
My tip for today: Read the end of the article first.
In my semi-regular feature called “The Power of the Jump,” I have discussed how the paper’s editors bury on the back pages all the facts supporting the right-wing view of a topic. Although these facts sometimes come right after the “jump,” the editors will often place these inconvenient facts at the very end of the article.
Therefore, I suggest that — once you have gotten the gist of the article by reading the headline and the first sentence or two — you should proceed directly to the last two or three paragraphs on the notoriously untraveled back pages. This may require you to turn to pages bearing ominous names such as “A17″ and “B26.” At first, it may seem like too much trouble. But it’s worth it. There’s a good chance that you’ll find some nuggets buried there that contradict the rest of the article.
More often than not, these buried nuggets will support the right-wing viewpoint, which will generally be at odds with a basically left-wing article. These right-wing views and perspectives at the end of the article will usually not be mentioned (or even hinted at) in the rest of the article. In order to see them at all, you will have to read the whole article — which is asking a lot — or just read the end first.
For example, this story in yesterday’s Times addressed the sluggish jobs recovery and the problems it poses for Bush’s re-election campaign. The slow job growth rate is certainly a legitimate story, and does indeed pose a potential political problem for Bush, whether he is at fault or not. It is not surprising that the story prominently features the bad news, along with criticisms of Bush by his putative opponent John Kerry.
But you get a more balanced picture of Bush’s (lack of) responsibility for the situation if you head straight for the end of the article, where you can read the following:
Indeed, the [jobs] report may be especially galling to the president, because he has done what some economists recommend in times of economic weakness: cut taxes and run up big deficits. The economy is putting on its strongest performance since it came roaring out of the deep recession of the early 1980s. But it hasn’t spurred job growth.
“You can’t accuse Bush of not applying enough counter-cyclical stimulus,” said economist [Robert J.] Barbera, once a key aide to the late Democratic presidential aspirant Paul Tsongas.
This does not mean the jobs issue is a political slam-dunk for the Democrats. The weak jobs figures could improve by the time voters begin making their decisions.
In addition, the prevailing diagnosis of the cause of the sluggish job creation includes trade and technology-driven productivity gains. Those are not easy things for any politician to address, especially not a Democrat.
“In essence, what’s on trial in this election is free trade and technology,” Barbera said. But neither is closely identified with Bush, he said.
“This is [former Democratic President] Bill Clinton’s agenda,” he said. “The delicious irony here is that the Democrats are running against Bill Clinton’s embrace of free trade and technology.”
In other words, Bush has done what he is supposed to do, but a Democrat economist says that the current state of the economy has more to do with Clinton’s policies than Bush’s.
If these facts were mentioned high up in the article, even in a couple of sentences, one might conclude that the Times was actually trying to give its readers a balanced perspective. This would be very simple to do. Here are the first few paragraphs of the article. In brackets, I have inserted three sentences that would have provided some balance to the article from the beginning:
The nation’s payrolls grew by only 21,000 positions in February, about one-sixth of what had been predicted, delivering a sharp blow to President Bush’s assertion that a growing economy would lead to brisk job gains.
February’s unemployment rate remained a comparatively low 5.6%, but only because hundreds of thousands of workers — many discouraged by poor employment prospects — dropped out of the labor force and were not counted as jobless, the Labor Department reported Friday.
The disappointing job increase, far below the 125,000 gain expected by analysts, boosted the already considerable political pressure on Bush, who promised that three years of tax cuts would produce a labor market turnaround. [Some experts said that the slow job growth rate is not Bush's fault, but rather has resulted from Clinton-era policies promoting free trade and technology. These experts contend that Bush has pursued the proper strategies for dealing with the sluggish economy. Nevertheless, if current trends continue, the slow job increase may pose one of the most significant political problems for Bush in his re-election campaign.]
It provoked barbed attacks by Bush’s presumptive opponent, Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry. . . .
But of course the bracketed sentence does not appear in the article. Indeed, the ideas expressed in the bracketed material are not even hinted at until the very end of the article, deep in the back pages. As a result, most people are unlikely to see the evidence that Bush is not at fault for the slow job growth rate. The only way you will know about this evidence is if you plow through the entire article — or you follow my advice and read the end of the article first.
Look for more lessons on how to read the Los Angeles Times in the coming days. Coming tomorrow: Lesson Two: Don’t Take Anything at Face Value.
Cross-posted at Oh, That Liberal Media.)