How Not To Write A News Story


Anyone who’s perused this blog knows where my political sympathies lie. And with media outlets like Fox News (The Conservative Channel), MSNBC (The Liberal Channel), and CNN (the Mostly Vacuous Channel), I still look to the PBS Newshour and my local newspaper – The Oshkosh Northwestern – for relatively serious and “straight news” (at least away from the editorial pages). But occasionally a reporter for The Northwestern reveals his political bias, as Jeff Bollier did near the beginning of this page 3 story entitled “Feingold urges King supporters to vote early, volunteer during rally“-

Count former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold among those who have answered Jessica King’s call for supporters to do everything they can in the final days before the Aug. 9 recall election.

Feingold is the most recent Democrat to visit the 18th Senate District to support King’s campaign to unseat state Sen. Randy Hopper, R-Empire, and help secure a Democratic majority in the Senate that would represent and support working families.

Now, I strongly support King against Hopper, but even I find the second paragraph here worded in an offensively biased way, for the clear implication is that the current Republican Senate does not represent and support working families. Arguably, it does not. But that conclusion should be argued for in an editorial, not implied in a news report about a political fundraiser. Otherwise, more ammunition is given to those who hold (falsely) that the media in general have a liberal bias.

My guess is that Jeff Bollier would reply that the second paragraph was written to express Feingold’s intentions in attending the rally, not to give a neutral description of the event’s purpose. But the paragraph is not written from Feingold’s point of view; it’s written from the reporter’s point of view. I have nothing against reporters sharing points of view with those on whom they report, but when they do, they should be extra-careful to set it aside when writing their report.