- Politics and Social Issues
CNSNews.com: Bias By Any Other Ideology is Still Bias
[Update 9/30/12 12:30 pm. Within an hour of posting my criticism, CNSNews.com had deleted the story from their website. Originally it was posted at http://cnsnews.com/blog/dan-gainor/secession-lakota-sioux-nation-leaves-union-again. I'm unsure if my criticism had anything to do with it or not. But lets just say it did!
This evening (9/29/12 8:30pm) I pulled up the Drudge Report to see what he considers to be the most newsworthy items of the moment. The lead headline was “Secession!: Lakoda Sioux Nation Leaves the United States”. The link took me to an article by Dan Gainor at CNSNews.com, a site owned by Media Research Center. According to their site, CNSNews is a “news source... [for those] who put a higher premium on balance than spin”.
I consider myself a politically conservative person and a connoisseur of news reporting. As such I have some minimum expectations from a "news report". First, it should center upon objective facts which have been properly vetted and sourced. Second, I expect the article will focus on the essence of the facts - the who, what, where, when, and why of the issue or event being covered. Third, good reporting should also demonstrate judicious editing: Words must be chosen purposefully to minimize any reporting bias. When these three basic rules are followed, the content allows the reader to make his or her own interpretation of the issues based on a balanced presentation of the facts.
As I read the account of the supposed succession of the Lakoda Sioux, I was struck by how egregiously CNSNews.com failed to meet any standard of “news reporting” with this article. No primary sources were used. Rather the article is an account of what the author claims another web-site has reported. There no evidence that CNSNews.com editors performed any fact-checking on the claims being reported. No valid link to his source is provided. Also absent is an article name or date provided as the basis for the report. In short, the article is nothing more than a hearsay report being passed off as "news".
Worse, the article uses words which reflect reporter bias -- the very evil that the Media Research Center claims to oppose. The first instance appears when the author describes his information source as “an anti-American website”. Such a description might be accurate. But it might not be. The claim is not supported by the author, nor is it explained how his assertion has any bearing on the facts being reported.
But the more telling instance of adjectives-as-a-weapon occurs when Gainor describes the book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee as “a saga about supposed injustices against the American Indians in the old west”. According to Merriam Webster’s, “supposed” has a definition which includes “mistakenly believed”. By including this adjective, Gainor casts a dismissive pall over the claims of injustice against American Indians. As such its inclusion in this story represents a form of bias designed to prejudice the reader against the subject of the article. Such 'reporting' is rightfully categorized as "yellow journalism"
While some like to claim that bias is the domain of the political left, CNSNews serves as a reminder: Unprofessional reporting knows no ideological boundaries. Substituting one form of bias for another is no improvement. CNSNews simply adds the malady of hypocrisy to the malignancy of bias. They have no more credibility as a news source than the "liberal" ones they decry.
As a country we need to stand up and demand professionalism from those who purport to be news providers. A good start is to encourage all such providers to adopt, publish, and enforce high editorial standards such as the principles by the American Society of News Editors (ASNE).