Arkansas Democrat Gazette – objective reporting or politics?

Lindsey Millar examines The Dem-Gaz’s failed quest for objectivity in a recent column at Arkansas Times. Millar notes that a recent ADG story about the Occupy Wall Street movement was slanted by certain editorial decisions:

It also ran a subhead, “Too loose to last? wonder some,” that doesn’t reflect the views of anyone quoted in the story. In fact, the fifth paragraph of the story notes that the “growing cohesiveness and profile” of the protest has “caught the attention of public intellectuals and veterans of past social movements.” Finally, where other subscribers of the AP elected to accompany the story with a picture of protesters holding signs or a photo of veteran activists, the Democrat-Gazette ran a picture of a man demonstrating how to break free from plastic hand restraints during the protests.

This is a stark example of the flaw in Fellone’s position. The decisions an editor made in the Occupy Wall Street story might not be a reflection the Democrat-Gazette’s conservative editorial posture, but at the very least, they’re the product of an editor bringing his subjective views to a story.

Even less subtle examples of politically slanted ADG front page news reporting are not hard to find. Arkansas Media Watch pointed out ADG headlines during the debt ceiling impasse wrongly claiming that both parties in Washington refused to compromise when the newspaper’s own reporting clearly indicated the opposite.

Here’s another one. Yesterday, the ADG front page had the following headline concerning new trade agreements:

“3 trade pacts win approval of Congress – Panama, S. Korea, Colombia deals touted as job creators”

The problem with that headline is that there is no evidence that these trade agreements are “job creators”. The article itself reports:

“The economic benefits are projected to be small. A federal agency estimated in 2007 that the impact on employment would be “negligible” and that the deals would increase gross domestic product by about $14.4 billion, or roughly 0.1 percent. (…) The commission [the U.S. International Trade Commission, a federal agency that analyzed the deals in 2007] predicted that U.S. farmers would benefit the most, because of increased demand for dairy products and beef, pork and poultry. Conversely, it predicted that the pacts would eliminate some manufacturing jobs, particularly in the textile industry. Opponents, including textile companies, said that the deals would harm the economy by undermining the nation’s industrial base. They argued that South Korean companies would benefit much more than American companies because they were gaining access to a much larger market.”

The article also quotes several sources, including Congress members from Arkansas and Secretary of State Clinton, asserting that the agreements will create US jobs. It quotes other sources asserting that they will, on the contrary, harm US workers, and remarks that “populist protesters oppose the trade agreements because of the potential for American job losses”. It further points out that President Obama “cited similar concerns in criticizing the agreements during the 2008 presidential campaign.”

Economist Dean Baker comments:

While politicians from both parties, including President Obama, have called these trade pacts job bills, it would be very difficult to find any economist anywhere who is not obviously on someone payroll who would claim that these deals would lead to any notable number of jobs ever, and certainly not in the next few years. Most analyses show that these deals will have very little impact on jobs and it is entirely possible that they will end up as net job losers in the short-term as has been the case with past trade deals.

Bottom line is that there are wildly differing opinions among policy makers and experts as to the impact of these trade deals on American employment, and the most expertly, unbiased source consulted in the article says that the impact is “negligible”. Yet the editor made the decision to associate the deals with job creation. The subhead elevates a contested opinion to the status of fact or at least consensus view. That editorial decision was indefensible.


2 thoughts on “Arkansas Democrat Gazette – objective reporting or politics?

  1. >“3 trade pacts win approval of Congress – Panama, S. Korea, Colombia deals touted as job >creators”
    >The problem with that headline is that there is little evidence that these trade agreements are >“job creators”. The article itself reports:

    Beyond the lack of evidence for domestic job creation through free trade, using the phrase job creator is parroting a talking point of the right. This is very poor form if a publication wishes to be objective.

  2. The most egregious case of bad editorial decision ever was in February 2003, when the largest anti-war protest in history involved millions across the globe, and the ADG put it in page 15.
    I’ve never forgotten.

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