Immigration Protests: Too Big for Their Britches?


Network news reporters love illegal immigrants, and not just because they cut their lawns, clean their toilets and deliver their takeout. They just can't get enough of "massive" immigration protests, and "huge" crowds, says a new report from the Media Research Center. Unfortunately,

…broadcast networks largely avoided scientific polling data that showed the protesters were in an overwhelming minority. The USA Today-Gallup poll asked whether illegal immigration is "out of control" or "not out of control." Fully 81 percent said "out of control." Fox News asked how serious illegal immigration was as a problem: 60 percent said very serious, 30 percent said somewhat serious. That's 90 percent. These polls were never cited by ABC, CBS, or NBC. In contrast to hundreds of words emphasizing a huge "wave" of "pro-immigrant" activism, the networks aired only 16 mentions of nationwide polls on immigration that considered the opinion of non-protesters.

But take heart. Most networks continued to call a spade a spade, at least:

The networks have not dropped the word "illegal" in favor of "undocumented" immigrants, although some reporters struggled to adopt clumsy liberal-preferred terminology. Groups like the National Association of Hispanic Journalists have urged their colleagues to never use the word "illegal," but the word was still more than five times more common than "undocumented." In 309 stories, there were 381 uses of the word "illegal," and 73 uses of "undocumented."

I love illegal immigrants (and their protests) as much as the next guy, but this kind of coverage screws us all in the end. When each side has its own set of facts, it just means more tiresome dinner conversations where everyone accuses the other side of lying and no one ever changes their minds, squabbling even as illegal Mexican busboys clear away the plates after dessert.

More on coverage of the protests here, and a forum on immigration policy from the August/September issue here.