ABC News’ election story this morning, which featured a poll that showed that (a) Americans believe Obama will win the election and the debates, and (b) that, regardless, the race has narrowed to a statistical tie, was published under the headline, “Majority Think Obama Will Win Debates, Election.” Certainly, if the expectations poll is correct, that is true. But given that ABC was also reporting that the race, “a virtual tie,” is “far closer than those prognostications would suggest” — i.e., that Americans’ perception is not necessarily tied to the reality of the race — it was an odd choice of title. What would I have preferred instead? Oh, I don’t know. Something like, “Obama Leads on Expectations — But the Race Itself Stays Close.”
It turns out that I wasn’t the only one to notice that the original headline rather ignored the weight of the story. ABC did, too, and they subsequently changed it to “Obama Leads on Expectations — But the Race Itself Stays Close.” (The old headline is still live on their affiliates’ sites.)
This isn’t an earth-shattering observation, nor will it convince those who refuse to believe that there is any such thing as media bias. But it is one of many instances in which the media exhibits a subtle — perhaps reflexive — partiality towards liberal candidates. What one leads with gives one an idea of one’s priorities, and this is no different in journalism. It is too much to ask that the media fit their headlines to their stories? And if it is, then why did ABC quietly amend their title?