JLF Triangle Blog

Hiding the Democrat label

The Associated Press goes out of its way to hide the fact that S.C. congressman James Clyburn is a Democrat. They report on the Myrtle Beach Sun News‘ story showing that Clyburn has used earmarks for years to benefit his family and friends.

The AP tells its readers that “Clyburn is the House majority whip,” giving them cover when they receive criticism for hiding the congressman’s Democrat label. But how many of your average readers know a majority whip from Cool Whip?

6 Responses to “Hiding the Democrat label”

  • Jun

    Just out of curiosity, have you done a survey of, say, 20 political articles picked at random, and counted how many times the (D) was omitted versus how many times the (R) was?

  • Jun

    Ok, well, I did a little of my own research.

    First, a search of the Associated Press archives on Google News for stories containing “Clyburn” came up with 47 stories.

    Just looking at the first 10 (because that’s what I have time for this morning, not being a professional journalist like Jon), 4 of them mention that he is a democrat within the short excerpt featured in the search results. Checking the full text of those which didn’t, I found one additional article which did mention his affiliation — so the AP scores 5 out of 10 for Clyburn.

    An identical search for “Roy Blunt” (Clyburn’s GOP counterpart) returned only 6 results, all of which mentioned his party either explicitly (“R-Mo” or “Republican”, though they couldn’t seem to decide if he ranks “number 2” or “number 3”) or implicitly (“a leader of a GOP energy task force”).

    Then, to see how the AP compared with other sources, I took out the “source: Associated Press” filter and tried again for Clyburn and Blunt. For Clyburn: 3 in the excerpt, total 5/10; Blunt: 7/10, all in the intro.

    So, Jon, I think you’re going to have to be more specific about the connection you’re trying to establish. You contend that the “Democrat label” is being consistently hidden in AP news stories, but it’s not clear that the AP is doing this particularly worse than anyone else — even if you dismiss the assumption that most people reading the article would know who is “the majority” in Congress at the moment.

    Where are you going with this?

  • Jun

    Woozle, we thought you had moved or something.

    Regarding the missing “D” in news stories, the fact that some news stories name the party of a Democrat in ethical difficulties is not a mitigating factor. All of them should do it. The point is that this seldom happens (never, in fact, as far as I can recall) with a Republican lawmaker in ethical troubles.

    I point you to NewsBusters.org, which points out these stories constantly. I quit doing it regularly because there are just too many to document.

  • Jun

    Haven’t moved, just been busy dealing with the lovely social services system here in NC — long story short: autistic teen, ample supply of red tape. A bi-partisan screwup, I’m sure. :-)

    I agree that political reporting should always mention party affiliation; I just hadn’t noticed it being a problem. If I’m not sure who someone is, there’s always Wikipedia / Conservapedia / Sourcewatch.

    Perhaps a set of standards for journalistic ethics and quality would be a good thing to assemble, if such a thing hasn’t already been done. Some related points which come to mind:

    * News stories that report on legislation without linking to more information about it (e.g. the proposal’s page on Thomas or any other reference site), sometimes without even giving the legislation’s code number (HRnnnn etc.) or an official name for which one could Google.

    * Certain infamous cases where certain politicians got away with (a) making inaccurate statements of fact, (b) finding those statements repeated in the press without correction, and then (c) quoting the press as a source when called upon to defend their original assertions.

    The free press is one of the institutions that made America great, and I strongly support efforts to thwart its corruption by self-serving interests of any political stripe. (Just in case you were wondering.)

  • Jun

    Looks like Conservapedia’s guilty of it too — their current front page features Harry Truman, but makes no mention of his affiliation with the Demoncrat party.

    They’re obviously part of the conspiracy, and it’s high time Andy Schlafly was “outed” as the Bush-hating, science-loving closet liberal he really is.

    (Be sure to keep voice completely deadpan if you read this out loud, otherwise it spoils the effect.)

  • Jul

    And yet another note: Republicans are doing it to themselves in Washington State.

    Y’all really need to do something about those dratted* neocons; they’re totally dragging the good name of conservatism through the mud. (*milder word substituted for what I originally wanted to say)

    Not without help, of course; the religious right is only too glad to exploit conservative ideals to advance their own ignorant agenda. And the laissez-faire neo-feudalists who deliberately confuse “free markets” with “totally unregulated markets” (an environment in which the large get larger and the small get stomped). And the purely self-interested who use the conservative tenet of “personal responsibility” as an excuse to blame other people for everything (problems are always caused by someone else not taking responsibility). And…

    Yeah, okay, I’ll stop now.

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