Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Marquette Tribune: A Gracious Response and an Example of Bias

The Marquette Tribune has greeted the alternative conservative newspaper on campus (The Warrior) with a fair news story, and a gracious editorial.

It wasn’t obivous they would do that, since The Warrior has billed itself as an alternative to the purported liberal bias of the Tribune and its supposed timidity in writing stories critical of the Marquette administration.

Indeed, one liberal blog went entirely ballistic when the Warrior hit the streets, and another was snide and contemptuous.

We doubt the Tribune staff, in their heart of hearts, really likes the Warrior. It’s perfectly normal not to want competition, and this past spring semester the Tribune (admittedly with different people on the editorial board) took a dismissive attitude toward campus blogs — something that doesn’t suggest enthusiasm toward alternative media.

Still . . . being against a new campus paper is pretty much being against free speech, and sometimes you have to swallow hard and welcome the competition. The Tribune was smart enough to do that.

Tribune Bias

The claim that the Tribune has a liberal bias deserves some scrutiny. It’s true that the paper’s editorials are far to the left of the mainstream. They have actually called for the words “under God” to be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance.

The opinion columns, in our experience, have been fairly balanced between liberal and conservative views.

Which leaves the news stories.

Like the rest of the mainstream media, the Tribune will insist that they don’t show a liberal bias. They honestly don’t believe they show a liberal bias. And indeed, frequently the stories are right down the middle.

But at other times, the fact that the staff is overwhelmingly liberal shows through.

“Protesting for Peace”

Consider a front page above-the-fold photo in today’s Tribune, with the headline “Protesting for Peace.” Protestors are holding a sign saying "Stop the War.” The notion they are really “protesting for peace” is debatable. What they are really wanting is American troops out of Iraq. That’s not likely to mean “peace.” That’s most likely to mean the odds in the war are skewed in favor of the terrorists, and against the democratically elected government of Iraq.

It could have said “Protesting the War” or “Demanding a Withdrawal.” Both would be neutral and accurate. But it said “Protesting for Peace.”

The story itself, printed on page nine, was quite fair, and the writer (Will Ashenmacher) took the trouble to fact check two key assertions that speakers voiced. This may sound routine enough, but reporters far senior to Ashenmacher have sometimes failed to do it.

What is questionable is even including the story in the paper — with or without the front page photo. Apparently not a single Marquette student took part — or if any did, Ashenmacher failed to find one and get any comment. And the photos show a very small bedraggled crowd. Indeed, there seem to be fewer protestors than The Warrior has staffers — and all the latter group are Marquette students.

Was this coverage an example of liberal bias? It’s possible that all that happened is that an editor sent Ashenmacher and photographer Krista Rizzo to a demonstration that turned out to be a nothing story, and didn’t want to tell them they had wasted their time. Or maybe there was a “news hole” to fill and the story was necessary to fill it.

Or maybe (given the biased headline) the Tribune takes an especially favorable view of anti-war protest.


Ultimately, the case for having The Warrior on campus does not depend on the Tribune being a bad paper or a liberally biased paper. Having some talented conservative young people who want to publish a paper is plenty of reason to have a paper. Ultimately, The Warrior will prosper if it provides information not available from the Tribune or any other outlet. It has a good shot at doing exactly that.


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