Last week, in “Newsflash: Press Biased,” I pointed to a flagrant case of distorted news judgement by The Washington Post. The Post mounted three big-headlined stories on its front page, each of which sounded a discouraging note about the war in Iraq. Meanwhile, the Post buried a major story on reduced casualties and the success of the surge on page 14. Comment bounced around the right side of the web…and then something truly interesting happened.
Howard Kurtz actually asked Robin Wright of The Washington Post and Barbara Starr of CNN about press treatment of the casualty story–and they both defended it. (HT: Glenn Reynolds) So we now have a very useful concrete example: a piece of news judgement seen in radically different ways by the mainstream press, on the one hand, and its critics on the other. And in this case, we can actually compare both sides of the story. So if you want to form a judgement on whether the press really does have a liberal and anti-war bias, this case is worth a second look.
The account I’ve linked by Noel Sheppard at Newsbusters does a good job of calling Wright and Starr’s rationalizations into doubt. Let me also reinforce the point I made the other day. Given the fact that the Post had mounted three other stories casting doubt on the war’s success on the front page, I see no chance that the public would have taken positive news as simple proof that all was well in Iraq. What the Post owed the public was an honest and even-handed presentation of all the news–good and bad– from Iraq. That would have left the question of how to add things up to the public itself. If putting a single positive story about the surge on the front page seems dangerous–when there are already three screaming headlines casting the war into doubt right beside it–then our media custodians are simply blind to their own biases.
Nor is this the first time I’ve noticed a problem in the Post’s reporting on the surge. Back in January of 2007, when the surge was first being proposed, I noted here on The Corner (see “Surge Report“) that a major article in the Post was parroting the Democratic Party claim that the surge was simply “more of the same.” Everything about that Post article tended to confirm the Democrats’ charge–to the point where an honest account of the surge’s core tactical innovation was entirely omitted.
To sum up: I say The Washington Post’s news coverage is distorted by a liberal and anti-war bias. Reporters from the Post and CNN deny this. Read the links, and make up your own mind.