I don’t bother much with posts about media bias these days for any number of reasons (it’s a little like shooting fish in a barrel, it eats up a lot of time, there’s less need for it now that academics have taken up the matter more rigorously), but every once in a while it’s still instructive to take apart a story that clearly illustrates the phenomena. So without further adieu, here’s a graf-by-graf examination of a story that appeared a few weeks ago in the Texas Tribune, a Texas online news site founded by a rich one-time Democratic activist that bills itself as a “public interest journalism” nonprofit.
We’ll first start with the headline:
Headlines are important. A good headline should briefly convey what is to come, and what is most important about what is to come.
Headlines reflect editorial choices and emphasis. For example, the Texas Tribune might have chosen the following factual headline: Legislators propose to tighten abortion clinic safety requirements. They did not.
The Texas Tribune might have chosen to append “critics say” to their headline. They did not.
Rather, the Texas Tribune chose a headline that signals to readers, right off the bat, that there is merit to the critics’ assertions — that they are closer to fact than opinion.
It’s preliminary framing, and indeed sets the stage for what follows.