Opinion: Media Mangle

Wacky headlines of the day

Sometimes headlines say what editors wish reality was, not what it is

There are some people who continue to insist there is no liberal bias in the mainstream news media, despite evidence to the contrary. Some even claim there’s not enough.

I’m sure an academic study would find considerable overlap in liberal-bias deniers and global-warming alarmists. You can see the effects of those two biases in the media almost every day.

There’s something else you can find: headlines that have no connection to the facts on the ground.

Take this one that was in The News & Observer this morning:

In what universe could Barack Obama ever be considered a centrist? Now, if someone called him a centrist in the story, then there should be quote marks around the word centrist. The fact that is has no quote marks indicates that the reporter and the editors consider this accurate assessment of Obama’s place on the political spectrum.

Many would beg to differ. People may quibble over whether Obama is the “most liberal” president, or that he was the “most liberal” senator before he was elected president, but no informed person seriously considers Obama a centrist. Except maybe the editors of The News & Observer and McClatchy papers.

The other headline comes from CNN:

A paltry statistical drop in the unemployment rate, brought on by the fact that so many people have given up looking for jobs and have pulled out of the job market, is considered “good news” to CNN. Recall that during the Bush administration, an unemployment rate of 6 percent was a national calamity.

The media are claiming that 117,000 jobs were created in the past month, based on seasonally adjusted statistics. But the non-seasonally adjusted rate shows that 4,000 jobs were actually lost during the past month.

Carolina Journal‘s Don Carrington, an expert on jobs statistics from his days at the N.C. Employment Security Commission, says the non-seasonally adjusted figure is the more accurate, in that it represents actual jobs during the reporting period.

Seasonally adjusted figures, Don told me, represent job numbers that have been adjusted statistically to iron out the peaks and valleys of seasonally affected jobs, such as those held by school teachers.

Jon Ham is vice president of the John Locke Foundation and publisher of its newspaper, Carolina Journal.