Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Headline Game

Let’s play headline match-up. In this game you look at two headlines that cover the same story and you guess which news source they came from. Today’s headlines involve yesterday’s report on the UN oil-for-food scandal and Kofi Annan’s involvement therein. Can you spot which one came from the BBC and which came from the Washington Times?

1) “Probe faults Annan”

2) “Annan cleared over oil-for-food”

Both headlines are technically correct. The probe did find fault with Annan, but he was also cleared of direct criminal involvement in the oil-for-food scandal. Despite this technical accuracy, however, it is clear that each news outlet gave the story their own little spin right in the headline.

The difference is that the Washington Times holds itself out as a partisan conservative newspaper while the BBC pretends to hold to the journalistic tradition of impartiality. Libs bitch a lot about the right wing media, (Fox News, talk radio, the blogosphere and publications like the Washington Times) and they like mutter darkly about how these news outlets are part of the “vast right wing conspiracy.” But the fact is there can be no conspiracy when the parties involved make their intentions perfectly clear. When a person tunes into Rush Limbaugh or reads the Washington Times they know exactly what they are getting. Conservatives aren’t trying to hide who they are.

It is the liberal media that pretends to be impartial. It is CBS, ABC and the BBC that hold themselves out as unbiased reporters of straight news, and yet if you give their stories even the slightest probing it becomes clear that they are spinning merrily away.

The idea of the unbiased press is a relatively new one. It was born in the twentieth century. Before that there were Democratic papers and there were Republican papers (or Whig, Bull Moose, Federalist, Know Nothing etc.) and they billed themselves as such. Today, as the liberal bias of the mainstream media becomes more naked and the right wing press proliferates, I sometimes wonder if we aren’t headed back to the good old days.

By the way: “Probe faults Annan,” was the Washington Times, and, “Annan cleared over oil-for-food,” was, of course, the BBC.

No comments: