On September 16, 2016 the Appleton Post-Crescent featured a story titled: “Is reach of John Birch Society on the rise?” Any time the local media specifically chooses to report on a political or social activist group, WMC takes special interest, as these pieces tend to contain more bias than others.
Though the Post-Crescent tried its best to stay neutral, in light of the subject matter, the paper wasn’t able to resist; as a result, WMC was able to find some valuable bias-teaching moments.
First, let’s address the “experts” cited to by the Post-Crescent. Though the Post-Crescent cites three “experts” concerning the Society, only one is given significant coverage in the piece – Claire Conner. Conner, an author who is clearly anti-Birch, is quoted as typifying the society as “dangerous,” and “anti-government,” whose members don’t believe in providing “any assistance to the poor.”
These, of course, are Ms. Conner’s opinions, and balanced reporting would have offered a countervailing opinion, of which there was none. This is bias by source selection.
Next, the Post-Crescent commits bias by misquoting Society spokesperson Bill Hahn. Here, the reporter states that according to Hahn:
[T]he society is still hampered by reputation — what he says is mostly “unfair baggage.”
Notice that word “mostly.” The insertion of this word passes along the reporter’s assumption that some of the “baggage” that has “hampered” the reputation of the Society is fair. This is bias by commission.
Overall, though, WMC acknowledges that the Post-Crescent likely tried to do its best to address an organization in a fair way that has otherwise been demonized by the media. Nevertheless, if there’s bias, WMC will “check it,” as it has done here.