Patterico's Pontifications

7/31/2004

L.A. Times: We Notice Only the Bush Opponents

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 12:54 pm

The Los Angeles Times today runs an article titled Kerry, Bush on the Road Again. The article has this glowing description of the Kerry campaign’s visit to a Wendy’s restaurant:

Kerry and Edwards, traveling with their wives, stopped for lunch in Newburgh, N.Y., population 28,000. In keeping with the Edwards’ wedding anniversary tradition, they ate at Wendy’s. “I’m treating,” Kerry told his running mate, as they entered the restaurant to a round of applause.

That’s it. That’s the entire report of the Wendy’s visit.

Meanwhile, the article fails to mention this little anecdote from the same Wendy’s visit:

Earlier, their [Kerry’s and Edwards’s] bus convoy pulled over at a Wendy’s fast food restaurant for a photo opportunity lunch that provided an awkward moment.

Spotting a group of US Marines, Kerry, who has made his Vietnam War service a cornerstone of his campaign, went over to chat. The Marines, who all turned out to be staunch Bush reporters, were not impressed.

“He imposed on us and I disagree with him coming over here shaking our hands,” one of them told reporters afterward. “I’m 100 percent against” Kerry, he said. “We support our commander-in-chief 100 percent.”

The New York Post elaborates:

A sergeant with 10 years of service under his belt said, “I speak for all of us. We think that we are doing the right thing in Iraq,” before saying he is to be deployed there in a few weeks and is “eager” to go and serve.

(Via Captain’s Quarters.)

Let’s turn the tables. Let’s pretend that Bush stops at a factory and approaches a couple of factory workers, with whom Bush poses for a photo-op. Bush asks the workers some questions, to which they give terse responses. After Bush leaves, the workers tell reporters that they are offended that Bush took advantage of them for a photo-op, and they support Kerry 100%, because Bush’s policies are costing factory workers jobs.

Do you think a story like that would make its way into that day’s Los Angeles Times story about the Bush campaign?

Meanwhile, the Times runs an AP story on the campaigns, which is careful to tell readers that President Bush is meeting detractors as well as supporters:

Protesters mixed with Bush supporters along the bus route. One boy held up a sign that said, “Bush’s last tour.”

Let’s recap. John Kerry tries to get a photo-op with some soldiers, and it backfires, badly, with the soldiers expressing resentment at having been used. But that’s not news. Meanwhile, one boy was holding an anti-Bush sign along Bush’s campaign trail — and that’s news.

Business as usual at the objective and non-liberal L.A. Times.

(Cross-posted at Oh, That Liberal Media.)

UPDATE: Welcome to Instapundit readers, and thanks to Prof. Reynolds for the link. Feel free to poke around the site; you can click here to reach the main page. If you like what you see, please bookmark and/or blogroll the site, tell a friend, and come back!

UPDATE x2: More on Kerry’s Wendy’s visit here. Apparently, while he choked down his Wendy’s double-cheese, he had a fancy gourmet meal waiting for him on his bus.

39 Responses to “L.A. Times: We Notice Only the Bush Opponents”

  1. LA is all the way across the country. I live near Newburgh. The local papers, Poughkeepsie Journal and Middletown Record, were there and totally ignored the Marine incident. Front page above the fold story, I had to read about the Marines in the Post.

    http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/saturday/localnews/stories/lo073104s2.shtml

    (registration required)
    http://www.recordonline.com/archive/2004/07/31/campaign.htm

    I’ve asked the public editor at both why, but I’m not holding my breath.

    /ahw

    Harry (752de0)

  2. Let’s recap. John Kerry tries to get a photo-op with some soldiers

    Marines, not soldiers.

    Nobody Important (5772c0)

  3. Is it fair to assume that the Times reporter heard what the Post reporter heard? Not likely. It’s not clear from the Times story quote that the reporter even entered the Wendy’s. Maybe he had to go to the bathroom — even reporters have to, sometimes. You can’t just automatically blame everything on liberal bias.

    David Crisp (1d9ffb)

  4. “Maybe he had to go to the bathroom — even reporters have to, sometimes. You can’t just automatically blame everything on liberal bias.”

    You are kidding right? surely you’re not tryng to blame liberal media bias on weak bladders??

    (all the liberal media at that photo op went for a leak at the same time, it must have either been a very big bathroonm or they are a very friendly group!!)

    Michael (a4ff79)

  5. “Bush’s Last Tour” isn’t necessarily an anti-Bush sign. He is after all going for his second term.

    Nice show of restraint by the Marines.

    michael dennis (88594c)

  6. Too funny. I wonder what the media spin will be once Bush kicks Kerry’s ass across the electoral college map?

    Tim (e636a8)

  7. You can’t just automatically blame everything on liberal bias.

    What is amazing is the level of gymnastic contortion the liberal mind goes through to try to “prove” that papers like the (LA/NY) Times is not liberally biased. That may explain the weak bladders.

    Scaramonga (8e7699)

  8. Scaramonga, I’m not trying to prove anything. I’m just trying to get you media critics to have some standards of proof yourself before you go off alleging liberal bias.

    Look at it this way: From now until November, every time a presidential candidate randomly shakes hands with people, about half the time he will be shaking hands with somebody who will vote for the other fellow.

    Are we surprised? Is that news? Do you intend to claim liberal bias every time a Bush supporter shakes hands with Kerry and it fails to make the newspaper? Is there any chance that you will ever claim conservative bias when it happens the other way?

    David Crisp (1d9ffb)

  9. I’m just trying to get you media critics to have some standards of proof yourself before you go off alleging liberal bias.

    Does a Newsweek editor admitting that the press wants Kerry to win count as any sort of evidence, in your view?

    Were you in the restroom when that story came out?

    Patterico (f7b3e5)

  10. “Look at it this way: From now until November, every time a presidential candidate randomly shakes hands with people, about half the time he will be shaking hands with somebody who will vote for the other fellow.”

    That’s not true at all. They shake hands at supporters at their rallies, rarely opponent’s supporters. I am not interested in shaking Kerry’s hands and neither apparently were these Marines. They didnt want in on Kerry’s phony ‘band of brother’ makeover. And rightly so, for Kerry’s voted to gut intelligence spending, against $87 billion last year for Iraq reconstruction, and for years has been a weak-on-defense extreme Liberal.

    Bravo to the Marines for not letting themselves get used in this cynical manner by Kerry and his phony campaign.

    I can cite dozens of similar cases of selection bias in media. This is routine. Marines werent the only opponents to Kerry there. There was a wondeful woman in dolphin ‘flipper’ costume that the big media ignored, and lots of others protesters.

    Asking the media if they have a liberal bias is like asking a fish if it feels wet.

    Patrick (5f09e4)

  11. Technically, it IS true. Every time a presidential candidate randomly shakes hands with people, about half the time he will be shaking hands with somebody who will vote for the other fellow.

    The devil is in the details. “Every time [Bush or Kerry] randomly shakes hands with people” is never.

    Xrlq (6d213c)

  12. David Crisp,

    Let me answer you seriously, by asking a question — specifically the hypothetical that I posed in the post about Bush visiting factory workers. I am truly interested in your answer to that question.

    Don’t you think a story like that would make it into any paper? Don’t you think that, if you ducked in the bathroom to take a pee while that hypothetical incident transpired, you’d hear about it when you got out? And then you’d go back to the workers and talk to them, and put their comments in your paper?

    Patterico (f7b3e5)

  13. Patterico, thanks for asking a serious question. I have never covered a presidential campaign, so others could answer your question better than I can. But I have been involved in enough “pack journalism” situations that I have some notion of the protocol.

    The hypothetical factory story you describe probably would appear in all papers. It might well be the story of the day. Reporters in such situations typically try to have a close enough relationship with at least one other reporter so that they are covered in case they miss something important. In this situation, the peeing reporter probably would find out what had happened and would attempt to conduct his own interviews, but in pack situations that frequently isn’t possible. He would then piece together what he could from his colleagues, with a degree of success that would depend on his personal relationship with them, their newspapers’ competitive relationship, the number of hours to deadline and the weight of the story relative to other news of the day. Even reporters who successfully gather information this way often will minimize or omit much of it, either out of professional pride or out of courtesy to reporters who provided the information.

    It isn’t clear that Kerry’s venture to Wendy’s is analogous. This does not appear to have been a planned photo op with a preselected audience. The Post says Kerry was “publicly dissed” but offers no evidence that there was any public scene. The Marines were polite but curt, which in my experience is typical of military men even around people they like. They wouldn’t give their names, which makes their quotes less valuable. They expressed opinions that appear to be widely held in their profession, so there was nothing particularly newsworthy about what they said. The story fails to make clear the context in which they were interviewed or how many reporters heard what they said.

    A reporter who missed such an exchange and had no time to do additional reporting might easily decide to leave it out of the story, knowing that numerous similar opportunities would be likely to arise during the course of the campaign.

    I’m not trying to say that no liberal bias ever appears anywhere in the media. I’m just suggesting that lots of factors go into determining what gets into and what gets left out of a daily story on a long campaign. To automatically assume that every decision you disagree with can be blamed on bias is simplistic and unhelpful.

    David Crisp (1d9ffb)

  14. I don’t *automatically* assume that every poor news decision can be chalked up to liberal bias — but here, there is other evidence that supports my conclusion. The reporter from the conservative paper managed to include the story. The L.A. Times managed to include references to Bush’s detractors elsewhere in their paper (albeit, to be fair, in an AP story). And, oh yeah — there’s the paper’s entire history to consider.

    And have you ever read Edwin Chen’s stuff before?

    So, no, it’s not an automatic assumption. Nor do I find it a “foolish[]” or “silly” one, despite what some might say. It’s based on a long history. If L.A. Times reporters are failing to publish newsworthy facts or anecdotes based on trips to the bathroom, they must have magical bladders that know exactly when the pro-conservative quotes or facts are about to emerge. Good job we have other reporters with heartier bladders to inform us of what we’re missing in the Times.

    Patterico (f7b3e5)

  15. One more thing: check out the L.A. Times article and notice how the Kerry supporters are always cheering and applauding — but there is no such description of Bush supporters. Evidently, at a Bush campaign rally, there is no cheering or applauding.

    Patterico (f7b3e5)

  16. “there’s the paper’s entire history to consider”

    Are you referring to its history of endorsing Richard Nixon? You are never going to get me to buy the logic that previous examples of biased reporting prove that this story is an example of biased reporting. Tell that to a judge.

    Look, I don’t even read the Times, not even online, because their online marketers want me to disclose my income and that’s none of their business. For all I know, the reporter who wrote this story worships Karl Marx. But you could just as easily make a case that this story is an example of the Post’s conservative bias rather than the Times’ liberal bias.

    Agence France-Presse, after all, relegated the incident to the 10th paragraph and dismissed it as “an awkward moment.” The Post says in its lede that Kerry was “publicly dissed,” but provides no evidence of any public dissing, other than “curt” responses and anonymous quotes to reporters.

    The Post goes on to say that the rest of the day went smoothly, with crowds of up to 20,000. Why were none of those people quoted? Why are the only quotes that make the Post drawn from unnamed pro-Bush sources? If a successful day of campaigning contains one awkward moment, does a neutral and fair-minded newspaper make that moment the lede?

    This is a game you could play every day on practically any story you choose. My gripe is not that you beat up on the Times. If that’s your idea of a good time, have at it. But it gets my goat when people trash reporters as dishonest and unethical without making any serious effort to determine what actually happened. That’s what I call unfair. And yes, frankly, silly.

    David Crisp (1d9ffb)

  17. Gee, David, I have to wonder what your view on the objectivity of Fox is? Do you harbor any “silly” notions about Rupert Murdoch or RM Scaife outlets that, perhaps, might fail to breach the “beyond reasonable doubt” standard you want to invoke here?

    megapotamus (17c12e)

  18. David Crisp (2:17am),

    You raise serious objections to the habit some readers have of crying, “liberal media!” every time a newspaper makes a judgement call those readers don’t like, whether in comission or omission. In this particular case–Kerry and Bush hitting the campaign trail at the conclusion of the Democratic convention–who, indeed, is to say what the “correct” or “unbiased” coverage would have been?

    Patterico and you present competing hypotheses regarding the nature and extent of the biases of the “national” daily newspapers, with Patterico focused on the LA Times.

    Patterico has stated his belief that the editorial leadership of the LA Times is generally quite far to the Left, and is willing to use the news pages to advance their political agendas. These tactics sometimes violate journalistic ethics that call for fair and even-handed treatment of the news. On this web-log, he lists examples where he thinks that the LAT falls short of these standards–standards that the LAT professes to uphold. These posts are evidence in favor of his hypothesis.

    Opposing evidence could be provided by demonstrating how the LAT has strived for impartiality in the stories Patterico cites (the paper isn’t biased, leftwards or any other direction). Another defense would be to cite instances when other LAT stories slanted the facts against the opinions expressed on the editorial page (the paper may be incompetent, even biased, but isn’t promoting a particular set of Left programs).

    I haven’t read any particularly convincing evidence-based rebuttals of Patterico’s charges.

    Your line of reasoning seems to be weaker than the two outlined above. “Who is to say in this particular instance what really happened? Who can say which details deserve to make the paper?” While these observations are true and important, I can’t rephrase them into a falsifiable hypotheses. They can be applied equally to the Manchester Union-Leader, Pravda, and USA Today.

    Patterico’s documentation of the LAT’s performance is not, as you claim, “silly”. Because his charges are strong, rebutting them should be fairly easy. At some point, the absence of effective rejoinders becomes, itself, evidence in favor of his accusation of left-wing bias.

    AMac (3cb088)

  19. The L.A. Times frequently makes screwups like this one. Any one such error alone could be chalked up to general sloppiness, but they can only make so many “sloppy” errors that all point in the same political direction before it becomes silly to deny the obvious political bias, and sillier still to label as “silly” those who don’t.

    David’s smug “I never read the L.A. Times but I’m more qualified to comment on it than Patterico is” line is the silliest part of all. Don’t want to give them income information? Fine, don’t. Give them fake information, or better still, don’t give them any information at all. But don’t pontificate about the bias (or lack thereof) of a paper that you know nothing, or next to nothing, about. [And yes, “next to nothing” includes those who know a useless factoid about the paper having been so friggin’ conservative a mere 32 years ago that it actually went out and endorsed the re-election of a Republican President whose views were so far out of the mainstream that he only carried 49 states.]

    Xrlq (ffb240)

  20. I note that the stauch Bush supporter marines were on their way to Iraq. Maybe a tour of duty will change their minds, ala John Kerry?

    Tim (31d001)

  21. How did a tour of duty change John Kerry’s position? Was it four months of Viet Nam that changed his stance from anti-war to really, really, really, really, really anti-war?

    Xrlq (ffb240)

  22. (Does a Newsweek editor admitting that the press wants Kerry to win count as any sort of evidence, in your view?)

    There were similar statements made in 2000 about Bush, as the press corps openly disliked Gore. In 1992 they favored Clinton over Bush. It’s less about liberal bias than it is personality. Believe me, the media likes whoever gives it the best access, the best stories, and makes them feel special. I’m a member myself.

    DW (8af248)

  23. There’s something to what you say, DW. The chattering class did give Gore a pretty hard (and unfair) time, I’ll agree. Bias is generally more obvious on social issues than in political races, as you might agree.

    However, Evan Thomas didn’t say: “Let’s talk about bias in favor of who gives better access.” He was talking about liberal bias. That’s a significant admission. (Not to mention Okrent’s recent admission re the NYT.)

    Patterico (f7b3e5)

  24. Megapotamus and Xrlg, you are placing material within quotation marks that you appear to want to attribute to me. Obviously, I did not say those things.

    Megapotamus, I actually have no problem with Fox News. I watch it a lot. It leans a bit to the right, and indulged in outright cheerleading during the Iraq War, but it gives time to both sides and seems to report the facts with reasonable accuracy. That’s OK by me. I don’t know Scaife’s publications directly, but have read pretty damning articles about his willingness to use his news pages to push his pet causes. I wouldn’t work for the man.

    Amac, thanks for a thoughtful post. But please note that I have no interest in defending the LA Times. I don’t care about the Times. But Patterico has to meet a higher burden of proof than I do, because he is accusing a reporter of deliberately skewing a story to favor one political candidate in hopes of affecting the election. That’s a serious charge, and it requires serious evidence.

    Xrlg, I’m not going to lie just so I can read the Times. My mama didn’t raise me that way. By the way, the Times was backing Nixon long before 1972. You could look it up. Adding “oid” to the word “fact” doesn’t make facts irrelevant.

    DW, thanks for making sense. Amen.

    David Crisp (1d9ffb)

  25. Patterico has to meet a higher burden of proof than I do, because he is accusing a reporter of deliberately skewing a story to favor one political candidate in hopes of affecting the election. That’s a serious charge, and it requires serious evidence.

    Who’s the one making exaggerated accusations? I haven’t said this was “deliberately skewing a story to favor one political candidate in hopes of affecting the election.” Evan Thomas of Newsweek has said something like that about the media’s treatment of the candidates in general, but I have made no specific accusation that the Times did this deliberately. (Though I did cite Thomas’s admission as evidence of the existence of liberal bias, which it clearly is.)

    There is an alternate theory for media bias: that it is often subconscious. I believe most media bias (not all, but most) fits this theory. I have been quoted saying that much leftist bias is unconscious.

    When I want to accuse reporters and editors of deliberately skewing a story, I know how to do that — and I have done that, when I felt the facts supported it. Here, I have said the story reflects bias, but I haven’t called it deliberate — though you accuse me of doing so.

    I won’t stoop to your level and call you “silly” and “foolish,” but I will note that I am not the person making exaggerated accusations.

    Patterico (76a849)

  26. If you’re too damned honest to use a free account to read the paper, then perhaps you should also consider being too damned honest to comment on a paper you can’t be bothered to read. No one claimed your factoid about Nixon was irrelevant because I called it a factoid. It is irrelevant because it is ancient history.

    Xrlq (e2795d)

  27. Patterico, I stand corrected. I should have written, “Patterico has to meet a higher burden of proof than I do, because he is accusing a reporter of subconsciously skewing a story to favor one political candidate in hopes of affecting the election. That’s a serious charge, and it requires serious evidence.”

    I didn’t really intend to pick a fight with you. If I had known you would take the “s-word” so personally, I wouldn’t have used it. I would rather fight with Xrlg, who still thinks I am defending the L.A. Times and who believes that the first election I ever voted in was “ancient history.”

    All I am asking is this: When you get the urge to criticize a “mainstream” reporter for journalistic malfeasance, do so with the rigor you would hope for from a reporter who is writing a story that could damage your professional reputation. Reporters work under constraints of time, space and access that affect their work in ways that aren’t always obvious even to their colleagues. Take those constraints into account; consider other possibilities that might explain why a story doesn’t match your expectations; if all else fails, ask the reporter. If the situation were reversed, you would want the reporter to ask you, wouldn’t you?

    Maybe the reporter would tell you to go take a hike. Fine. That’s how the world works, and reporters live with that reality every day.

    David Crisp (1d9ffb)

  28. David,

    Whether I write a particular reporter is a decision I make on a case-by-case basis, based on factors such as the nature of the omission/misrepresentation, who the reporter is, and what will be the likely response, among other things.

    Here, I can see the entire exchange in my mind’s eye before it happens: reporter responds saying it’s a judgment call, I respond with my Bush hypo, reporter unconvincingly says it’s different, I get frustrated, and it goes nowhere. I don’t have the time for such an exchange every time I see something suspect in The Times.

    Patterico (4c2e7e)

  29. I’ll add that you didn’t use a lot of “rigor” in assuming accusations on my part, and calling me silly and foolish based on your incorrect assumptions, so I don’t see how you feel justified in lecturing me about rigor and fairness.

    Patterico (4c2e7e)

  30. That said, you are not entirely without a point, and so I’ll think about writing Chen. I definitely won’t get sucked into a debate with him over it, but I may send him one e-mail to see what the justification is.

    Patterico (4c2e7e)

  31. Actually, looking at the article again, it’s Finnegan who reported from Scranton. I will write him.

    Patterico (f7b3e5)

  32. Okay, David. I have written the guy. Read the e-mail here. Keep checking back for the response . . .

    Patterico (f7b3e5)

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