Media bias: WaPo photo caption editorializing edition

posted at 12:15 pm on December 18, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Conservatives have long argued that the media biases its reporting, and not just its editorializing or commentary, through omission and commission in its news sections.  Media defenders usually scoff at this, claiming that conservatives just don’t like objective reporting and want to pressure media outlets into more sympathetic coverage.  In today’s Washington Post, though, we see almost literally the picture of media bias in reporting.  I say almost literally, because as Jim Geraghty and Newsbusters notices, it’s actually what’s below the picture that’s the problem.

In its story today on a Democratic Congressman who voted against ObamaCare, the Washington Post supplies an interesting caption for a picture of the Representative:

Take a closer look:

“Rep. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.) voted against health-care reform even though it is badly needed in the largely rural district he represents.

That’s an objective caption?  It should read, “Rep. Larry Kissell explains his position on health-care reforms to his North Carolina constituents,” since that appears to be what the picture depicts.  Kissell, it should be noted, voted against one form of health-care reform, which may have made things much worse for his largely rural district.  In fact, the Medicare cuts championed by Democrats will likely force Medicare providers in rural areas out of business, making health care much less accessible for those outside of cities.

Something is badly needed at the Washington Post, however.  Editors.

Update: Danny Glover at Accuracy in Media gives a personal perspective:

I spent 14 combined years of my career at both National Journal and Congressional Quarterly, where this kind of sniper journalism was not tolerated.

We weren’t even allowed to use the word “reform” at CQ when I covered the health-care debate in 1993-94 because the word implies that something is bad and needs changed. It gives credence to one viewpoint in the debate. We used phrases like “health-care overhaul” or the even more generic “health-care legislation.”


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C’mon Ed, it’s all in your head, silly right wing fascist….

/Insert liberal troll name here

Hawkins1701 on December 18, 2009 at 12:17 PM

Non compos mentis. They think that’s a fact, not opinion.

Red Cloud on December 18, 2009 at 12:17 PM

More objective journalism: Barack Obama rescued the economy from certain disaster left to him foisted upon him by that poopy-pants George Bush

John the Libertarian on December 18, 2009 at 12:19 PM

My local LLL newspaper does this all the time. I don’t even think they care about trying to hide it anymore, as it has gotten pretty obvious lately.

Johnnyreb on December 18, 2009 at 12:19 PM

Next they’ll find a way to politicize the margins.

Akzed on December 18, 2009 at 12:19 PM

Alt Caption: Rep. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.) one of handful of Democratic representatives that has the balls to talk to his constituents.

WashJeff on December 18, 2009 at 12:20 PM

This happens all over, daily, if not hourly. The overall tone of the Health Care debate is often categorized as ‘needed’ and ‘important’ or, ‘having passed an important milestone’ ‘historical’ and on and on.

I can’t believe anybody that watches network news even argues there is no media bias.

I won’t even get into the crap that comes out of Hollywood

cntrlfrk on December 18, 2009 at 12:20 PM

Pffft. Did you see Sarah Palin’s visor? It’s on the NYT front page.

Bishop on December 18, 2009 at 12:21 PM

Looks like he’s got some junk in his pocket.

Syd B. on December 18, 2009 at 12:22 PM

…and leaning right, I might add.

Syd B. on December 18, 2009 at 12:22 PM

“See? We do deserve government subsidies.”

Vashta.Nerada on December 18, 2009 at 12:23 PM

Next they’ll find a way to politicize the margins.

Akzed on December 18, 2009 at 12:19 PM

They’ll probably start with subliminal messaging in the white space.

Hmmm . . . by the comments left on most WaPo articles, it would appear they have already brainwashed their readers.

Firefly_76 on December 18, 2009 at 12:23 PM

Who wrote the caption? The janitor for the Washington Post offices?

I can’t believe anyone who had ever stepped foot in a journalism school would write something like that.

Then again, it is the Washington Post.

UltimateBob on December 18, 2009 at 12:24 PM

Looks like he’s got some junk in his pocket.

Syd B. on December 18, 2009 at 12:22 PM

ROTFLMAO!

txag92 on December 18, 2009 at 12:24 PM

Is “scumbaggery” a word?

voxpopuli on December 18, 2009 at 12:26 PM

WaPo’s journalistic integrity, coverage neutrality, political impartiality, and any manner of objectivity in question? You’re kidding. I’m just stunned.

anXdem on December 18, 2009 at 12:26 PM

Maybe they are planning to ask for a bailout too. So spewing propaganda will please the One.

becki51758 on December 18, 2009 at 12:26 PM

Pffft. Did you see Sarah Palin’s visor? It’s on the NYT front page.

Bishop on December 18, 2009 at 12:21 PM

I heard the crazy quitter quit her vacation short, too.

voxpopuli on December 18, 2009 at 12:27 PM

Associated Propaganda really needs some competition. The blogosphere is full of local reporters ready to participate in an Associated Blogger Press.

Mark30339 on December 18, 2009 at 12:27 PM

Well, I’ll give the Post credit here. This is the first caption I’ve see with a by-line (and it’s not the article’s author). It seems like establishing the cut line as a mini-editorial.

eeyore on December 18, 2009 at 12:28 PM

One thing positive to come out of the Giggles Era – the media doesn’t even try to hide it anymore.

Why didn’t they just say “Rep. Larry Kissell (D-What an A**hole) voted against wonderful Government-run health-care even though the largely rural district he represents is overrun by tonsil vultures and foot rustlers.”

crazy_legs on December 18, 2009 at 12:32 PM

Something is badly needed at the Washington Post, however. Editors.

I would have thought pink slips…

Horatius on December 18, 2009 at 12:32 PM

the media biases its reporting

WOW! That almost never happens…. *cough*

44Magnum on December 18, 2009 at 12:33 PM

In addition, I want you to take a look at the photo. It has been either purposely cropped that way or deliberately selected so as to present the Representative as “Frankenstein.” Note the weird angle on the floor.

Horatius on December 18, 2009 at 12:36 PM

I heard the crazy quitter quit her vacation short, too.

voxpopuli on December 18, 2009 at 12:27 PM

———————————————-

Give it a rest, already.

fossten on December 18, 2009 at 12:37 PM

That’s an objective caption? It should read, “Rep. Larry Kissell explains his position on health-care reforms to his North Carolina constituents,” since that appears to be what the picture depicts.

Glenn Beck says, “C’mon, Ed; that’s crazy talk.”

I say, “C’mon, Ed; can’t you see the invisible charts on the wall behind Kissell, making the irrefutable argument for why his district needs Obamacare?”

BuckeyeSam on December 18, 2009 at 12:38 PM

And looking at the opening paragraph–this entire article is unsupportable on “non-bias” grounds. The editor who oversaw this needs to be fired. Today.

That is what I would do if it were my call to make.

Horatius on December 18, 2009 at 12:38 PM

Rep. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.)

Well, to be fair, Kissell isn’t being as upfront as he should be…

“Rep. Larry Kissell (SWP-N.C.)” would be more accurate.

mankai on December 18, 2009 at 12:45 PM

Uh oh! Looks like Kissell is now an enemy of the state! :o

capejasmine on December 18, 2009 at 12:47 PM

Ed, what makes you think that wasn’t OK’d by an editor?

Techie on December 18, 2009 at 12:57 PM

Gee, I wonder if the Washington Post is liberal?

vcferlita on December 18, 2009 at 12:59 PM

Why do they need EDITORS. They don’t even bother checking facts.

GarandFan on December 18, 2009 at 1:00 PM

Not surprised.

Claypigeon on December 18, 2009 at 1:00 PM

And it’s through subtelty that the left spreads its way of thinking.
Very few people will take notice of this.

Badger40 on December 18, 2009 at 1:01 PM

Justification disclaimer:

Yeah, but you should see the lies and fabrications the right puts out daily in their publications. They are just as guilty. Besides, everyone does it.

(insert liberal troll here)

Rovin on December 18, 2009 at 1:01 PM

How do we know the editor didn’t fix it to what is says now?

rollthedice on December 18, 2009 at 1:03 PM

Conservatives have long argued that the media biases its reporting, and not just its editorializing or commentary, through omission and commission in its news sections.

Ed, how about a post on how Time magazine didn’t include anything on the Tea Party protests on it’s look back on big events of 2009?

PatMac on December 18, 2009 at 1:07 PM

Alt Caption: Rep. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.) one of handful of Democratic representatives that has the balls to talk to his constituents.

WashJeff on December 18, 2009 at 12:20 PM

Not so.

I live in NC-8. It went over sixty percent for McCain/Palin, mostly Palin. Kissell won by the Obama wave, which won’t drag him over in 2010. The Republican Kissell replaced, Robin Hayes, was seen to have betrayed his district by voting for international trade agreements that killed the textile industry (arm twisted by GWB). A LOT of unemployed textile voters voted against Hayes. Could not give Hayes signs away, but people did take lots of Palin stuff.

This is not a rock solid R district, but it isn’t very purple, and Kissell will be soooo over if he voted for either cap and tax or the marxist health scheme. Matter of fact, he’s probably over already.

His no vote was a Hail Mary. As for talking to HIS constituents, he goes to the farthest reaches of the district in very poor blue areas to hold meetings. In our little bedroom county for NC’s largest city, he barely stops at the red lights.

Carolina Kat on December 18, 2009 at 1:15 PM

If the current standard of “objective” journalist had prevailed in 1945, the Allied victory in Europe would have been given a headline like “Western Military Cabal Crushes German Experiment in Representative Government”

Cicero43 on December 18, 2009 at 1:17 PM

I heard the crazy quitter quit her vacation short, too.

voxpopuli on December 18, 2009 at 12:27 PM

As opposed to Obama who got so overwhelmed, he had to take a vacation from his vacation.

Doughboy on December 18, 2009 at 1:19 PM

“Western Military Cabal Crushes German Experiment in Representative Government”

Cicero43 on December 18, 2009 at 1:17 PM

+10

Badger40 on December 18, 2009 at 1:20 PM

And people ask me why I don’t subscribe to any newspapers nor frequent any of the mass-media websites…

Dark-Star on December 18, 2009 at 1:23 PM

Memo to WaPo: Kissell did this because his district is opposed to the plan. Oh, and he wants to win re-election next year, too!

SouthernGent on December 18, 2009 at 1:29 PM

Ed, how about a post on how Time magazine didn’t include anything on the Tea Party protests on it’s look back on big events of 2009?

PatMac on December 18, 2009 at 1:07 PM

I noticed that, no Tea Party coverage. But they had important people like Walter Cronkite and Micahel Jackson on the cover……

UltimateBob on December 18, 2009 at 1:31 PM

I heard the crazy quitter quit her vacation short, too.

voxpopuli on December 18, 2009 at 12:27 PM

Let me guess…..Harvard?

capejasmine on December 18, 2009 at 1:33 PM

Looks like he’s got some junk in his pocket.

Syd B. on December 18, 2009 at 12:22 PM

Don’t know about him, but that’s where I carry my 380

AZfederalist on December 18, 2009 at 1:43 PM

Maybe the reporter is also the editor.

I wish Obama would hurry up and bail out the newspaper industry–they are in need of people that can verify the lies.

ConservativeTony on December 18, 2009 at 1:44 PM

I don’t even think they care about trying to hide it anymore, as it has gotten pretty obvious lately.

Johnnyreb on December 18, 2009 at 12:19 PM

Actually, with the current circulation of liberal newspapers, the best place to hide it IS in the Newspaper.

barnone on December 18, 2009 at 1:47 PM

We weren’t even allowed to use the word “reform” at CQ when I covered the health-care debate in 1993-94 because the word implies that something is bad and needs changed

That has annoyed me with the recent debate, with all the news sources canonizing the socialization of medicine with the label of ‘reform’.

Count to 10 on December 18, 2009 at 2:07 PM

Man, your reliance of the “media bias” crutch is getting ridiculous. This kind of blogging is lazy and dishonest. Did you bother to read the article?

The district, at the heart of the state’s weakened textile industry, stretches from Charlotte to Kannapolis to Fayetteville and was shedding manufacturing jobs even before the recession. Now, about 20 percent of residents younger than 65 have no health insurance — among the highest rates in the nation — and the bill would provide coverage to about 85,000 who are uninsured, according to a congressional analysis of census data.

The caption in reinforcing one of the key points of the story — the the senator is voting against the bill despite the fact that its passage would provide insurance to many in his highly-uninsured district. It’s not editorializing to say that a district that has one of the highest uninsured rates in the nation badly needs reform that would help bring insurance to close to 100,000 people.

Tom_Shipley on December 18, 2009 at 2:10 PM

If the current standard of “objective” journalist had prevailed in 1945, the Allied victory in Europe would have been given a headline like “Western Military Cabal Crushes German Experiment in Representative Government”

Cicero43 on December 18, 2009 at 1:17 PM

Subtitle: “Russian intervention only hope for equitable resolution”

Count to 10 on December 18, 2009 at 2:10 PM

In addition, I want you to take a look at the photo. It has been either purposely cropped that way or deliberately selected so as to present the Representative as “Frankenstein.” Note the weird angle on the floor.

I don’t know, everyone in the picture seems to be leaning to the right relative to the floor. Maybe the floor is tilted?

Socratease on December 18, 2009 at 2:11 PM

Then again, it is the Washington ComPost.

UltimateBob on December 18, 2009 at 12:24 PM

chickasaw42 on December 18, 2009 at 2:11 PM

And actually, more to the point, the caption was written that way not to try and paint the Rep in a bad light, but to pique the reader’s interest.

You read that and the first thing you think is, why would a rep — a Democratic rep — vote against health care reform when his district has one of the highest uninsured rates in the nation. The story goes on to explain why — because the bill would cut Medicaid funding and he pledged not to vote for anything that cut Medicaid. But caption here is acting like a headline, trying to draw readers into the story.

Tom_Shipley on December 18, 2009 at 2:23 PM

The caption in reinforcing one of the key points of the story — the the senator is voting against the bill despite the fact that its passage would provide insurance to many in his highly-uninsured district. It’s not editorializing to say that a district that has one of the highest uninsured rates in the nation badly needs reform that would help bring insurance to close to 100,000 people.

Tom_Shipley on December 18, 2009 at 2:10 PM

Oh, well now that you’ve clarified that, that makes things clearer. You are so right, using the words “even though it is badly needed” is in no way an editorial comment.

/Where do you people come from? How do you even manage to remember to draw breath. Do some research, look up something like “loaded terms”. The words “badly needed” fall into that category.

Since that his probably beyond your ability, here’s a slightly less biased candidate caption:

“Rep. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.) who voted against health-care reform, speaks with members of his district. Some constituents in his district would benefit from some of the reforms while proposed Medicare cuts could adversely impact the largely rural district he represents.“

At least that would have been balanced and contained information instead of inflammatory rhetoric intended to sway opinion, not report news. Remember? *That* is what NEWSpapers are supposed to do — report news, not shape opinion.

AZfederalist on December 18, 2009 at 2:28 PM

Tom Shipley, there is NO EVIDENCE whatsoever that any uninsured will get insurance through this bill since nobody knows what is in it nor will they read it themselves before passing it.

In this red leaning district, entitlement programs and victim baiting is not a successful political strategy, especially since the democrats have only delivered more money to their politically powerful special interests and very little trickles down to those actually in need. See TARP and those poor helpless Wall Street Bankers….

Carolina Kat on December 18, 2009 at 2:36 PM

The daily socialist WaPO publishes lies.
The Atlantic ocean is damp.
Any questions?

Slowburn on December 18, 2009 at 2:38 PM

“The Washington Compost” – Levin

The AP, just yesterday, “new unemployment claims for last month are up… this is good news because the 4-months average is down”.

Schadenfreude on December 18, 2009 at 3:21 PM

Don’t start feeding shipley, he has no interest in the facts. If he did, he wouldn’t have tried defending something this blatantly biased. He knows he’s defending opinion, he also knows the part of the article he cites is similarly laced with opinion. Hell, he even inflated his own numbers (85,000 isn’t that close to 100,000). There is nothing in this article that says the people there aren’t getting health CARE, just insurance.

When we pay attention to those who are obviously not qualified for such dignities, we only encourage them.

runawayyyy on December 18, 2009 at 3:33 PM

I heard the crazy quitter quit her vacation short, too.
voxpopuli on December 18, 2009 at 12:27 PM

Just in time so the MSM can focus on the utter collapse of AGW in Copenhagen.

It’s amazing the simpleminded “Hate Palin” crowd, like yourself, are so easily played.

DSchoen on December 18, 2009 at 3:40 PM

But caption here is acting like a headline, trying to draw readers into the story.
Tom_Shipley on December 18,

Oh please, you can’t be that stupid.

Why do people buy News papers?

Uh, to read them.

DSchoen on December 18, 2009 at 3:48 PM

Don’t start feeding shipley, he has no interest in the facts. …

When we pay attention to those who are obviously not qualified for such dignities, we only encourage them.

runawayyyy on December 18, 2009 at 3:33 PM

You are right of course. Every once in a while though, it does feel good to whack a troll.

/Even if it is kicking cripples.

AZfederalist on December 18, 2009 at 4:04 PM

My local LLL newspaper does this all the time. I don’t even think they care about trying to hide it anymore, as it has gotten pretty obvious lately.

Johnnyreb on December 18, 2009 at 12:19 PM

Mine too, which is why the pathetic, failing NY Slimes wannabe Buffalo News will never see another red cent out of me for the rest of my life.

Not. One. Red. Cent.

BlueStateBilly on December 18, 2009 at 4:10 PM

Mine too, which is why the pathetic, failing NY Slimes wannabe Buffalo News will never see another red cent out of me for the rest of my life.

Not. One. Red. Cent.

BlueStateBilly on December 18, 2009 at 4:10 PM

My husband has referred to the Buffalo New as “the local Pravda” for years. He brings it home from work periodically. We don’t read it, as that just makes our blood pressure climb, but it makes useful bird cage liner!

mcc4 on December 19, 2009 at 3:46 AM

“New” should be “News”.

mcc4 on December 19, 2009 at 3:48 AM