Media

The Price of Press Bias

When the press tilts in favor of higher taxes and more regulation, democracy is indeed distorted.

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RICHARD B. LEVINE/Newscom

How seriously should one take President Trump's complaints about the press? About $37.06 a year seriously, to be precise.

Trump tweeted earlier this week: "With all of its phony unnamed sources & highly slanted & even fraudulent reporting, #Fake News is DISTORTING DEMOCRACY in our country!"

The most sinister interpretation of Trump's attacks on the press is that they are an effort to undermine public confidence in one of the few independent institutions that could challenge his grip on power. Trump's Republican Party controls Congress. Conservative-leaning justices hold four of nine Supreme Court seats. The Democratic Party is in disarray. That leaves the press—with the possible exception of the quasi-permanent federal bureaucracy—as the most formidable obstacle to whatever Trump wants to get done.

The most charitable interpretation of Trump's complaint is that, even if he may be exaggerating or painting with an excessively broad brush, he's nonetheless performing a valuable service by highlighting a genuine problem.

The truth, as usual, is somewhere in between. But Trump is right about the "highly slanted" part. I can say that as someone who has been documenting bias at The New York Times in items for my Smartertimes.com website now for 17 years.

How can I quantify the cost of press bias so precisely—$37.06 a year?

That's the amount my property taxes increased after the City of Boston voted to approve a tax surcharge. The slanted coverage came from the local National Public Radio affiliate, WGBH, which aired an indefensible piece that quoted two people in favor of the tax increase but not a single person who opposed it.

Now, one might argue that the press is just serving its audience of left-leaning Boston-area voters. The voters approved the tax increase in 2016 with about 74 percent in favor.

But it's a bit of a "which came first, the chicken or the egg" type of question. Are WGBH and the Boston Globe liberal because the citizens of Boston are? Or do the people of Boston lean left because the press is feeding them a diet of slanted information on which to make their judgments?

The truth, as usual, is somewhere in between.

The new property tax bill from the city, admirable in its transparency, has a line that itemizes the amount of the "community preservation act" surcharge. It's a line that didn't exist on last year's tax bill.

The line is labeled "community preservation act," but I prefer to think of it as a "media bias" tax. For $37.06, I could buy a pair of shoes for one of my children, make a donation to WGBH, or hire a local teenager to mow the lawn or shovel snow off my driveway. Instead, the money will go to local politicians for spending on their pet projects.

It's rare that the cost of press bias is as clear, and the consequence of it as direct, as with this property tax increase. But the price we pay is there, in every doctor's bill and every health insurance bill, every electric bill, every estimated tax payment, every payroll tax deduction, every sales tax imposed on every purchase at every store or restaurant. When the press tilts in favor of higher taxes and more regulation, against energy exploration, and for more government spending, democracy is indeed, as Trump accurately observes, distorted. The true cost, on annual basis, is probably well more than my $37.06 tax increase.

The First Amendment wisely prevents Congress from making any laws to address this problem. But President Trump is free to complain. And the rest of us are free to read, watch, and listen with skeptical eyes, ears, and minds, and to call out egregious cases of slant when we see them. If we don't, we'll all be stuck with the bill.

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  1. While I find calculating this number to be a bit ridiculous, it is no more ridiculous than the numbers and bullshit the media peddles in the ways he describes.

    1. This article describes the insidious nature of the press precisely, and the writer has only seen the tax consequences. Watch the writer rail once the pols actually get hold of the money and how they mis-spend it on their “pet projects.” And we all know they do just that. Watching taxpayer money wasted up close and personal is beyond scary, and in our community they have the audacity to say out loud “you are not actually paying for it” because a small percentage of this particular community fund is matched by the state. ??? The voters bear responsibility as well.

  2. For $37.06, I could buy…

    A MN priced bag of weed and Big Mac meal for the drive home.

      1. Are you fucking feeling me?

      2. Can’t believe I watched that….. pretty smooth beats dawg 😛

  3. The root problem in my eye isn’t media slant or bias, it’s media claims of ‘objective unbiased reporting” which is then subsequently hammered into the minds of plebs as being the only legitimate way to do “news”.

    I’m shocked at time when I have spread Reason articles to friends and their objection (young democrats always have an objection) is that Reason obviously argues from a Libertarian perspective and doesn’t shy away from that fact. They see this as a detraction, they think all “news” must pretend to be unbiased reporting. Which is just insane to me, because:

    1) I’m not sure writing without bias is even possible
    2) Arguing a certain viewpoint or claim in writing is the format of almost all academic papers
    3) It’s more honest to state your position — (my defense for Fox News that I’ve used for years, “If I want to know the conservative views on today’s news I can watch FN, simple as that, it’s honest about it’s political leanings)
    4) Some of the most glorified news outlets in history were anything but “unbiased” — for instance all the famous abolitionist newspapers pre-civil war — they argued daily with a clear bias and once slavery was ended they closed up shop; victory achieved.

    1. my defense for Fox News that I’ve used for years, “If I want to know the conservative views on today’s news I can watch FN, simple as that, it’s honest about it’s political leanings

      I thought Fox News’ slogan when they first started out was “fair and balanced.” Although I don’t recall seeing them claim that anytime recently.

      1. They have to claim that because that is the standard operating procedure for MSM, but I mean come on, nobody takes them at their word on that slogan.

        1. I mean come on, nobody takes them at their word on that slogan.

          Oh, I know. Even their viewers are well aware of the slant. Yet anyone pointing out the obvious bias of CNN or MSNBC will be greeted with howls of indignation and denial from their viewers. And yet those same people consider themselves to be “intelligent” and “enlightened” compared to those rednecks who watch “Faux News.” Projection: not just for movie theaters anymore!

      2. they literally (yes) dropped the slogan maybe 3 weeks ago…no link.

      3. I always assumed they said that because they included leftists like Colmes and that big guy on the five. They also have liberal commenters on the payroll that the big shows regularly bring in to argue with.

        Though “balanced” isn’t the right word, as it’s quite imbalanced. But at least they tried to represent both sides.

  4. The truth, as usual, is somewhere in between, argues Stoll.

    Yes, that’s like saying there are two sides to every story. Was Drumpf lying when he said that Obama had wire-tapped Drumpf Tower? Yes, he was. Somewhere in between would be “well, he said tapp in quotes, so…”

    No, Drumpf said that Drumpf Tower was wiretapped by Obama. That is a lie. No evidence has ever been presented.

    Cue: Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    Well, good luck explaining Drumpf’s cock in your mouth.

    1. You don’t comport to Red Twilight’s preconceived notion of a Trump critic Ira! Obviously you’ve got his cock in your mouth.

    2. “Drumpf”

      People are still doing this?

      1. Not anyone you’d want to hang out with.

      2. Only the stupid ones who are incapable of original thought.

      3. It’ll work one of these days.

      4. Why were they doing it in the first place? Are people supposed to hate him more because his family changed their name when they came to the US?

        1. Are you saying “Drumpf” was actually a former surname?

          1. That’s what I heard. But upon a little bit further investigation, it looks like that is not actually the case and the family was called Trump when they were in Germany as well.

            1. Huh, you’re right. I totally bought it because Drumpf is actually a very believable German word (lots of English words beginning with “t” begin with “d” in German; same with “p”/”pf”).

            2. the family was called Trump when they were in Germany as well.

              German, eh? You know who else…

        2. Why were they doing it in the first place?

          It shows he comes from a family of immigrants.

        3. Why were they doing it in the first place?

          Well, literally every one of their attacks is pure projection, and they call everyone else racists, sooooooo…

        4. >>>Why were they doing it in the first place?

          because Nobama stuck.

        5. I wonder what people would think of someone who continually referenced the Jewish name of some actor or movie director before they changed it? I doubt it would be “He’s so clever.”

      5. Yes people are.

        They can’t help but to resort to name calling. It’s also a code word to show you are member of a particular groupthink.

      6. “Drumpf”

        People are still doing this?

        Yea, I don’t get it. Donald was not even the one to change his last name. I don’t hear these imbeciles picking on the light-bringer for changing his own, full name from Barry Soetorro.

        1. the family was called Trump when they were in Germany as well.

          Hm. Idk what to believe now. But either way, the b.s. social signalling in using “Drumpf” is stupid.

          1. That’s what Wikipedia tells me.

        2. Only lefty losers.

    3. So, it turns out, he wasn’t under investigation? Or was he? Or will we find out in 5 years when the information secreted away in the Obama Presidential Library gets made public?

      I get dizzy from the narrative whiplash.

      1. It will never be relevant. This will fall into the same category as the rest of it. Distraction from gov’t spending, massive debt creation, devaluation of the currency, FED profligacy, protectionism for lobbyists, and never ending wars.
        That’s all that matters to washington anyway.

        The rest is fodder for imbecile sheep.

    4. Yes, that’s like saying there are two sides to every story. Was Drumpf lying when he said that Obama had wire-tapped Drumpf Tower? Yes, he was. Somewhere in between would be “well, he said tapp in quotes, so…”

      No, Drumpf said that Drumpf Tower was wiretapped by Obama. That is a lie. No evidence has ever been presented.

      Cue: Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

      Well, good luck explaining Drumpf’s cock in your mouth.

      This article isn’t about Obama wiretapping Trump. It doesn’t even mention it. It appears absolutely nowhere but in the idiotic, inane you post you made.

      This article is about whether the press is dishonest or slanted, and the author of the piece CLEARLY doesn’t defend Trump at any point in the article.

      If you’re going to be a shitty little douche trying to slam others, maybe know what the fuck you’re talking about next time, sockuppet.

      I’m so fucking tired of all of these low-IQ, low-information moonpies thinking they have an argument, when their arguments never, ever, ever, EVER rise above “Look at dat gai! I doan liek him! He bad!”

    5. I’m really triggered by your homophobia. We don’t need SoCons here in the comments

  5. The voters approved the tax increase in 2016 with about 74 percent in favor.

    I bet 50% or more of the voters think they’re not going to pay it.

    1. Bingo!

      For so many reasons. But first, what is the rental rate among those yes voters?

  6. When the press tilts in favor of higher taxes and more regulation, against energy exploration, and for more government spending, democracy is indeed, as Drumpf accurately observes, distorted.

    No, you moron, they are simply presenting opinion, not spreading FAKENEWS. Drumpf accurately observes his cock in your mouth, that’s all.

    1. SOMEBODY’S obsessed with the idea of Trump receiving oral pleasure.

      1. Must be all that Obama cock in his ass. He obviously wants it in both ends.

      2. We got a live one here. And darn funny too with nicknames and such

      3. You can tell that Red Twilight licks his lips every time he says ‘Drmpf’s cock.’

        1. One that is a cock cannot lick himself.

    2. Fun fact: Trump has the classiest-tasting man goo. The best.

      1. Somehow I doubt Trump eats more celery than me. Ladies.

        1. I thought it was fruits that enhance… flavor?

        2. It tastes like a heavenly combination of Johnnie Walker Blue and Ritz Crackers.

          1. Thanks!

      2. And shoots the yuuugest loads. Bigly.

    3. they are simply presenting opinion

      In the guise of allegedly unbiased news. The problem isn’t the bias, but the pretense of being unbiased and then getting indignant anytime someone points out the bias.

      1. In the guise

        Staying on topic, in high school a friend of mine – slightly retarded fella who somehow made himself very successful even though he barely cracked 800 on his SATs – pronounced “guise” as “jizz.”

  7. The media has rendered itself completely irrelevant. That’s what they deserve. Next!

    Now people like trump and the goons at CNN can get away with anything as long as their minions don’t object.

  8. Did you not follow the campaign? Donald Trump’s a whiny crybaby always complaining about how unfair everybody else is, he admitted as much and said being a whiny crybaby helps him get his way and that’s all that matters. If winning involves giving a billy goat a blow job, Trump’s your man for billy goat blow jobs.

  9. About tree fiddy

    1. No Loch Ness Monster, you can’t have tree fiddy! Now go on, git.

  10. Well this was the stupidest fucking thing I’ve read all day.

    You want the press to reflect your bias instead? Go to J-school and start a newspaper. Jesus you capitalist ?bermenschen, all you ever fucking do is whine.

    1. You also said that you think there needs to be a mix of capitalism and socialism once in a previous post.

      Everyone, this is the guy that is attempting to insult capitalists.

    2. It was already apparent that you don’t read your own comments.

    3. No, I think he wants the news to avoid reflecting anyone’s bias the best they can.

      I wouldn’t say that it’s stupid to not want state news agencies to promote statist propaganda. Id stay it’s actually pretty stupid to want anything else.

    4. “all you ever fucking do is whine.”

      Is this irony, or Alanis Morisette irony, which I have termed “morony”?

      1. Tonymorony

    5. Go to J-school

      Unnecessary unless your goal is to be indoctrinated in leftist, regressive dogma.

      1. Then stop bitching that the field of journalism is overrun by leftists. Go overrun something yourself if you want it to reflect your views. You’ve done great at talk radio.

        1. All you do here is bitch. You don’t even try to be either substantive or entertaining in your posts. We and you would be much happier if you just went and boned your Al Gore flesh light for a hobby instead.

    6. Tony|7.18.17 @ 3:41PM|#
      “Well this was the stupidest fucking thing I’ve read all day.”

      Not quite. You just beat it.

    7. All libertarians do is bitch! Unlike left-leaning democrats, who spend their lives in quiet gratitude.

  11. For $37.06, I could buy SIV two live Hens.

    1. They won’t be alive for long once SIV… you know… has his way with them.

    2. What the hell would SIV do with a hen? If it ain’t got a wattle, it ain’t worth the battle.

      1. Roosters have cloacas too, and they don’t just lie there.

  12. So you’re complaining that you’re paying $37 more on your property and blaming it on a particular piece of news on a public radio station, but you provide NO PROOF whatsoever that the lawmakers were influenced by that particular story or any other news story. Ironically, this makes your article a good example of press bias.

    1. Actually it sounds like it was a voter referendum, not a law. So he’s claiming that the voters may have been swayed by biased reporting that only reported one side of the issue, the pro-tax increase side, while ignoring the other side. And he’s using this single as a rhetorical to make a larger point: that biased press reporting does have costs. I wouldn’t think that would be that controversial of an opinion. Also, it’s not a good example of press bias because it’s an opinion piece with no pretense to be anything but an opinion piece.

      1. *using this single example as a rhetorical device*

        I hate when I can’t type fast enough to keep up with my train of thought.

      2. “that biased press reporting does have costs. I wouldn’t think that would be that controversial of an opinion.”
        Go back to the reporting following that dude that shot at the Republicans that were playing baseball, or the reporting following the guy that shot Giffords. There are a lot of people deeply uncomfortable with the idea that if you shout “kill the umpire!” often enough, that eventually someone will.

        So yeah. It’s a controversial opinion. Because if you accept that people can be manipulated, and that we aren’t all perfectly rational machines that appropriately consider all stimulus before deciding on a course of action, then you have to acknowledge that your responsibility for your words doesn’t end when you shut your mouth.

  13. For $37.06, I could buy

    Tony a clue!

    HA!

    1. 6/10

    2. A raging clue?

    3. Like he’d know what to do if he had one.

    4. 8% of a clue.

    1. Yeah, they kind of have it coming.

      I thought this whole thing was going to be a lot more fun. People take this shit way too seriously. Everyone loves comparing their political foes to Nazis. But you aren’t supposed to actually believe it.

      1. It was fun until people starting throwing rocks.

      2. I thought this whole thing was going to be a lot more fun.

        I thought the “Pee dossier” thing was pretty fun when it started.

        It has since lost its humor value.

      3. >>>Everyone loves comparing their political foes to Nazis

        Mel Brooks just about had them marginalized, then internets.

    2. Trump’s attacks on the press are some of the most fascistic things I’ve seen in American politics in my lifetime. He doesn’t need to be shoveling Jews into ovens before we get to point things like that out.

      1. What is fascistic about attacking televised political pundits? Just because you’re on TV or have a website doesn’t make you sacred.

        If a sitting president can attack the Supreme Court fur daring to uphold the 1st amendment in middle of his state of the union address, then you shouldn’t be flipping your shit over a president insulting some glorified bloggers.

        1. Wow, a bit odd to still be bitter over that mild criticism of the SC given the totally indecorous shitshow we have in office now.

          1. Tony|7.18.17 @ 5:51PM|#
            “Trump’s attacks on the press are some of the most fascistic things I’ve seen in American politics in my lifetime.”

            This from a cesspool of stupidity who obviously has no idea what “fascism” is.
            Fuck off.

      2. For some reason, you’re reminding me of Ben Carson.

        Can’t put my finger on it…

      3. Trump’s attacks on the press are some of the most fascistic things I’ve seen in American politics in my lifetime.

        fascinating. however! =

        1) you’re an idiot and no one takes you seriously
        2) Obama wiretapped AP journalists and prosecuted more leakers with the espionage act than all previous presidents combined

        Even the NYT argued that Obama set a new precedent for press-hostility.

        Trump’s ballbusting of CNN in public, and constant sparring in the press-briefings is *unseemly*, but he hasn’t yet begun to even use half the ‘fascistic’ powers his predecessors have wielded

        of course, its a complete waste of time pointing all of this out to you…. because #1

  14. Having NPR act as a mouthpiece for the tax-and-spendocrats in Taxachusetts is no excuse for an 11MB jpg.

  15. For $37.06 I could buy

    Half-Virture, Half-Vice’s mother another black Fist Of Fury Dildo.

    1. That just does not look comfortable. The pistol grip, I mean.

    2. *puts on some gloves so he can take them off*

  16. I don’t think people understand the difference between opinion editorials and news. Shows like Maddow and Hannity are OpEd.

    1. Yeah well this guy has an obsessively documented blog about all the biases found in everything the NYT prints. Presumably the Washington Times is 100% straight.

      1. So tu quoque it is then.

  17. It has always been the case, and it’s always going to be the case, that when you control a press, you can mold public opinion to some degree. Even the straightest of straight reporting has an editor behind it choosing what counts as news.

    And right-wingers know this better than anyone. “The press is a leftist cabal” is but a drop in their massive propaganda bucket, which has gotten more politicians elected and more policy passed than the New York Times could manage in 1,000 years.

    1. Well, if you say it, I’m sure it’s true.

    2. Go on: tell us more!

    3. “And right-wingers know this better than anyone. “The press is a leftist cabal” is but a drop in their massive propaganda bucket, which has gotten more politicians elected and more policy passed than the New York Times could manage in 1,000 years.”

      Her hagness couldn’t have said it better, you stupid pile of shit.

  18. “The most sinister interpretation of Trump’s attacks on the press is that they are an effort to undermine public confidence in one of the few independent institutions that could challenge his grip on power”

    How about the most demented interpretation? The press hasn’t been independent, ever. Reporting has ALWAYS been done through the lens of whatever bias owns a particular paper or station. Oh, the Media have been preening themselves about being independent and unbiased for as long as I’ve been paying attention. The violent thugs banding together in our streets preen about being ‘antifascist’, while being the closest thing to fascists loose in the country since the Silver Shirts of the 1930’s. Neither conceit deserves any respect.

    1. The simple economic fact is the media’s inside access to the powerful (which forms the basis for their livelihoods) depends on their usefulness to benefit those powerful people. This means they will always ultimately be just a tool of the rich and powerful, not a check on them.

      Historic examples of the media “turning on” politicians are not them flexing their power to take someone down, but rats fleeing a sinking ship as other powerful players take that politician down.

      1. I think that’s an uneccesarily bleak picture. For most of modern history, there have been media outlets that catered to views in opposition to the major power groups. Maintaining freedom of the press for these has been a constant battle, but it has only been since the 1960’s that The Media aligned almost completely to one group. And that has been breaking up since the 1990’s, and don’t the Progressives (who got used to controlling the terms of debate) squeal about it! They only really had a major lock on things from the late 1960’s to the mid 1990’s, but in those two to three decades they got complacent, and they aren’t re-adjusting well.

        They got out of the habit of taking what the opposition was saying seriously, and really engaging it, so they live in a bubble and don’t have the chops to really debate. It’s costing them.

  19. “That leaves the press?with the possible exception of the quasi-permanent federal bureaucracy?as the most formidable obstacle to whatever Trump wants to get done.”
    Yup, the federal bureaucracy and the media do not want any scaling back of the big ‘ol Nanny-State that Trump is trying to accomplish.

  20. Press is an activity, not a group. Anyone who disseminates information or opinions to a mass audience is press. The NYT and WaPo and CNN are not any more “press” than a 15 year old kid named Pedro writing a blog from his mom’s basement.

    The factors that have differentiated NYT/WaPo/CNN from smaller members of the press in the past:
    1. Reputation for credibility
    2. Economies of scale for production and distribution
    3. Access to those whose opinions and statements matter to most people

    #1 is rapidly being pissed away if it isn’t gone already. Many people would trust Pedro’s Blog more than the NYT at this point, and arguably only a minority would trust the NYT more.

    #2 is pretty much irrelevant in the Internet era.

    #3 remains for now, but really it was only present because of #1 and #2. A person who does not expect favorable treatment from NYT/CNN/WaPo has no reason to talk to them. Blame Trump all you want for this, but reality is that “serious media” access was heavily pared back even in the Obama years.

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