Patterico's Pontifications


Dave Barry and Laudio

Filed under: Humor — Patterico @ 6:05 pm

Congratulations to Patterico reader Laudio, who got a mention in a Dave Barry blog post.

Reporters, Editors: Exercise Some Judgment!

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 10:24 am

To oppose liberal bias is not to say that journalists should not make judgments. Where they can, they should — if they can do so without being unfair, if doing so will help the reader, and (most importantly) if they can back up those judgments with facts. Jay Rosen made this argument recently, and while I don’t agree with everything he says, I believe (as I said in the comments to his post) that good journalism should give readers solid facts to help them decide between competing viewpoints.

An example of a story that fails to do so is today’s Los Angeles Times story on the partial-birth abortion ban decision. The story, by Lee Romney, reports:

President Bush condemned the ruling. Other proponents of the ban said they expected to lose in front of Hamilton, an appointee of President Clinton whom they view as liberal, but they remained optimistic that the U.S. Supreme Court would ultimately decide in their favor.

Come on, Lee Romney. Don’t tell me proponents of the ban see her as liberal. Tell me whether she is liberal. At least tell me how she is generally viewed.

A recent Times story described Ninth Circuit Judge Richard Tallman as a Clinton appointee who is “generally considered one of the appeals court’s more conservative members.” I said here that, while you could quibble with the characterization, it was a reasonably fair and helpful description. I much prefer that to “Tallman is considered by liberals to be conservative” — which tells me almost nothing other than that he is not a raging liberal.

If you can’t determine the judge’s political views, how about telling us a little about her background? After all, the story about Tallman’s decision told us that he had been a prosecutor (but didn’t mention that he had also been a defense lawyer). This story doesn’t mention that Judge Hamilton has been a deputy public defender in San Francisco.

In my experience, the fact that someone is a prosecutor tells you little about their political ideology. I work with many liberal, partisan Democrat prosecutors, as well as conservatives. I have yet to meet a conservative deputy public defender. The very nature of the job almost demands a liberal outlook on life.

If the Times had reported that Judge Hamilton used to be a deputy public defender — a fact which took me only seconds to dig up — its readers would have had more context with which to decide whether ban proponents are correct to view Judge Hamilton as liberal.

Come on, Times editors. Let’s not play this game of “one side said x and the other side disagreed, and we are helpless to give you facts to determine who’s right.” Dig a little deeper. Make a judgment, backed up with facts, and share those facts with us. That will better inform your readers.

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