Marquette Warrior: Biased Headline in the Washington Post

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Biased Headline in the Washington Post

A good catch from the Heart, Mind & Strength Blog.

A Washington Post headline over a story about the New Orleans disaster says:
Many Evacuated, but Thousands Still Waiting, White House Shifts Blame to State and Local Officials
One of the exercises we do with our classes is to take headlines like this and ask students to rewrite them as headlines that have the opposite ideological bias.

For example, one of the headlines we use was over a story that appeared when the Pope visited the U.S. back in the 90s. The story explained how public opinion polling showed that American Catholic liked the Pope a lot, but disagreed with him about a range of issues. The Journal-Sentinel headline read:
Pope/Free-thinking American Catholics present challenge
The assumption, of course, is that Catholics who disagreed with the Pope were “free thinking” and that those agreed with him were mindless sheep.

So what happens when we rewrite that headline with the opposite bias? How about:
Pope/Disloyal American Catholics present challenge
That’s quite biased, of course, but no more biased than the headline that actually appeared.

Now let’s return to the Washington Post headline and rewrite it to show different biases.
Many Evacuated, but Thousands Still Waiting, State and Local Officials Shift Blame to Federal Government.

Many Evacuated, but Thousands Still Waiting, Democrats Try to Shift Blame to Bush.

Many Refuse to Leave City, Media Blames Bush
As with most media bias, it’s not that editors at the Washington Post are consciously trying to engage in anti-Bush propaganda. It’s just that in their little liberal milleau the anti-Bush interpretation is the obvious one.


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