Croker Sack

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." — Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

Monday, December 13, 2004

Sunspots: The Sun’s Anti-Bush Bias Shows in Headline

As reported in an Associated Press story on Saturday, the administration stated that enactment of air pollution laws would be a top priority early in the second term of President Bush:

"The president decided to make a strong push at the start of next year to complete his clean air and clean energy agenda," said EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt, who met with Bush to discuss the strategy earlier in the week. "And we now have a framework under which we will proceed."
The story goes on to explain that the administration will delay issuing an EPA regulation until no later than March to give Congress an opportunity to hold hearings and pass a bill which would do much the same thing as the regulation.

Why not just go with the regulation now? As noted in the AP article, Leavitt and James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, explained:

Leavitt and Connaughton said they believe legislation is superior to a regulatory approach, by cutting down on the possibility of lawsuits that could delay rules from going into effect from opponents who say they do too little or require too much.
Without acknowledging the AP as the source of the story, The Sun of Bremerton, Washington, published a substantial part of it under this headline:

Clean Air
Critics say proposed bill
weakens other regulations
Note the different headline used by ABC News in publishing the entire article:

AP: Bush Will Make Air Pollution Priority
AP Exclusive: Bush Will Make Air Pollution a Top Priority in Congress Next Year, Officials Say

Headlines tend to influence how a reader understands the article. Some people skim the newspaper, reading the headline and the first couple of paragraphs to get the gist of the story. Even those who read the entire article often keep in mind the headline’s statement and construe what they read in that light.

Consider, then, the clear bias of The Sun’s editorial staff. Nothing in the part they published said anything negative about the administration’s proposed course of action – until the last sentence, which was a summarization of two paragraphs from the AP story:

Critics say the existing Clean Air Act would be weakened.
So, one must read all the way to the end to find nothing more than what the headline said at the beginning.

Someone naive enough to believe that The Sun would surely not allow editorial opinions to appear anywhere other than on the editorial page might suppose that space limitations kept the editors from including more information about the critics’ view of the proposed law.

This supposition would be wrong. The AP story included this brief statement of a critic’s opinion:

Environmentalists say, however, that Bush's legislative proposal carried by Inhofe goes farther than the rule, by also weakening parts of the Clean Air Act.

"The Bush administration is now staking its money on a bill in Congress that weakens and delays public health protections already provided under the current Clean Air Act, while forcing the EPA to delay public health protections under current law," said John Walke, director of clean air programs for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The delay would be no more than three months – hardly a terrible thing.

Whatever the “environmentalists” believe to be a weakening of the current law isn’t stated.

But, The Sun did what it could to influence its readers’ opinions of the Bush administration by trying to convey the idea in the headline that the evil Bush intends to make them breathe dirty air.


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