Thursday, September 22, 2005

SPIN: Bias by omission?

In covering the unveiling in the U.S. Capitol of a portrait of the first elected Black Congressman, Joseph Rainey, of South Carolina, the Chicago Sun-Times (September 22) noted the attendance of Congressional Black Caucus members, fairly well known as a Democrat lobbying group, and the ever camera ready Jesse Jackson, a Democrat. It then quoted a Democrat congressman noting that Rainey is the first “person of color” to have a portrait installed among the hundreds of paintings on the House side of the Capitol.

Since most might assume, from the reporting and “prevailing wisdom,” that Rainey was a Democrat, I searched perused the story for that pro forma information. When I did not find it, my gut instinct predicted that Rainey was a Republican, and the omission made to keep the story in line with current liberal mythology. I found an online biography that confirmed my suspicion. Rainey was a staunch Republican.

I am not a terribly cynical person, but the article begged for the inclusion of the partisan designation as a relevant biographical fact. It is almost unheard of for the media to not identify a legislator’s affiliation, making the omission that much more glaring. It is not something that can be simply overlooked, or thought irrelevant to the article. This exception to newspaper tradition gives credence to existence of a subtle and pervasive or media bias.

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