Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Debunking the 'bias'

Romanesko today has a link to an article from the American Spectator. It makes a lot of bold claims about newspapers and reporters. Few of them are true.

Reviving the tired argument that newspapers have a "liberal bias," American Spectator senior editor Tom Bethell tries to put a new spin on the idea, citing union membership for the supposed leftist slant of U.S. newspapers. He doesn't try to demonstrate that there's a bias however. You'll just have to take his word for it.

From there, Bethell embarks on a long wandering indictment of labor unions, specifically those in the newspaper industry. But none of his criticisms have anything to do with The Newspaper Guild, Communications Workers of America, or any organized news unit. Instead, Bethell drags out shopworn cliches like the auto workers and the airline industry as convenient stand-ins, warning that newspapers may be doomed just because their employees have the ability to negotiate collectively.

Adding insult to injury, Bethell suggests that Guild units "are disposed to keep on doing their thing out of habit even if it threatens to put their own company out of business." He ignores the glut of stories documenting concessions and back-breaking sacrifice accepted by our members, including this unit.

Here's a very incomplete list of other Guild units that have agreed to concessions, found after just two minutes with Google.

Minnesota Guild approves concessions for bankrupt Star-Tribune

Chronicle workers vote 10 to 1 for concessions

Yakima Herald-Republic Concessions Agreement

Paper handlers union is fourth to approve concessions at Globe

To be fair, the Spectator hit piece acknowledges the holes in its argument - right before it glosses them over. Here's one such caveat:

To be sure, major newspapers are not closed shops, and a reporter hired by the Post has the option of joining the Guild or not. The Guild is moderate, as unions go.

Which sounds nice, until you realize that he's already called us self-righteous, irrational bullies. Nevermind the long list or documented cases of intimidation and illegal firings that face our members. But again, facts don't seem that important here.

Regardless, everyone is entitled to their opinion. We aren't in the business of arguing with people and groups that sacrifice reality for ideology. Disagreement is natural, even healthy, but differences of opinion should be rooted in facts, not lies.

The real question is why Romanesko is linking to an old the article in the first place. It's been out for over a month now. What purpose is served by enabling those who attempt to distort the truth, and do it as a weapon against the industry that Romanesko ostensibly serves?

Like the article, it makes no sense.


Anonymous said...

The fact that 'you' as in reporters / newsworkers can't see your bias is further proof that such a bias exists.

Ask just about any stranger - not a union member or the wife of your pressroom buddy - and they would tell you that not only do you seem biased, but you seem unbelievably out of touch with the average person.

The majority of Americans are appreciative of what unions did in the past for all of us.

BUT we realize that unions pose a significant restraint on doing business.

A majority of the people that I've heard representing unions seem to have no concern for the entire body politic (i.e., the business as a whole,) but rather only care for their members and what their members get. That's why we can't get rid of teachers that are suspected of inappropriate acts with their students. And why businesses with unionized members can't get rid of ineffective workers.

I'm glad I'm not in a union.

The day that I cannot argue for myself, represent myself, and rely on my own work to prove my value - well, that's the day I DESERVE to be fired.

There is no other country on earth that gives people more opportunity than the US. Aboslutely - there are major flaws in the system and that's a shame, but in general - we are more fair than anyone else.

Why you (typical union) want to handicap businesses is beyond me. Businesses create jobs - or did you forget that?

If you don't like the way LANG or MNG is treating you, go get another job. You know - try to live in the real world with the rest of us and see how you like it.

Instead, you'll bitch and moan about how unfair life is and how bad Dean Singleton is, not thinking that the paycheck received from LANG is what has paid your rent / mortgage.

You people make me sick.'

(Lemme guess ... this won't be published.)

Len Cutler said...

Thank you for writing in. Obviously we disagree on the need for worker's rights. But we're not going to try and change your mind, or point out the flaws in your logic.

Instead, we'll let your post speak for itself.

The idea that corporate power should have no limits is dangerous, and shows why unions are more important than ever.

Anonymous said...

The flaws in my logic - interesting statement.

Could you point out where I suggested that corporate power should have no limits? I don't recall writing that, especially as it isn't a notion I support.

Corporate power should have limits. We have many laws to that effect.

Unfortunately, most union members I hear from seem to think that the power of unions should be unlimited.

Have you ever talked to a small business owner? Or a mid-sized business owner? Should he or she, the individual who sacrificed in order to build the business, have their earnings be capped simply because they're too successful? Even if they obey all laws and pay all their taxes?

Laws, regulations, and yes - unions - are increasing the cost of doing business everywhere but especially in California.

Yet it's these same legislators who make the laws and union leaders who cry out in disgust when companies send work to other countries. Talk about flawed logic.

Yeah right said...

Yeah, if you can't see the bias, that means it exists!

I guess you believe in the Easter Bunny too!

Shyanne (pronounced Cheyenne) said...

hi im Shyanne from the young minds accoicatian... jk im a ninth grader! doing a project and this artical helped me identify a TON of Bias... THANKS!!!!
ok so i agree with some of what anonymous said... like when they said that the day they have to RELY on someone to help keep their job then they belives that they should just be fired and i agree just because i have the "my work is my pide and soul" kind of mind set. its how i was raised... And i also agree with what they said about yall being out of touch and extramly Biased. I read the newspaper every day that i can because it is really the only intresting scorce of news for me other than magazines... (i despise the killing of brain cells through television)what you really need to do is find a smaal town hero and see how they live... youll see that its acttualy a verry simple life and probbably as hard as you belive yours is if not harder. And my mother is a small/middle sized bisness owner. She comes home in tears and so stressed that she has to carry all of my bratheras and me around to our practices all at the same times on other sides of our small town when just her work alone keeps her up till three in the morning. she is so stressed that she cannot even stand her two year old son when he hits her. (playingly of course) she just starts tio cry. you reporters dont relize how easy you have it. you dont have to go home every night and cry and cry and cry and cry because you know that you will have your job in the morning you know that your bisness wont fail withen a weak you know that you will ber getting a paycheck every day. and by the way yall are extramly bias. just once i would likle to read the paper and not be called an "extreme conservitive" esspicaly since i am a libral... So yes i do agree with Anonymous but i also agree with Yeah Right when they said "Yeah, if you can't see the bias, that means it exists!
I guess you believe in the Easter Bunny too!" (mostly because its HILARIOUS but also true.)so to0 recapp yopu are Biased... try to spot it and fix it ok? ok. bye for now!
- Shyanne