Headline bias | TheFencePost.com

Headline bias

Although most newspapers claim to be unbiased you can certainly tell their proclivities by reading their headlines; the problem is too many people only read those headlines and take them at face value and form their opinions.

I was struck by the headline of an AP article that appeared in the Rapid City (S.D.) Journal. I believe the headline must have come with the article and was just pasted in. It read, “Trump storms out of meeting.” That paints a vivid picture, however if the reader bothers to read the story where it says “President Donald Trump abruptly stalked out of a White House meeting,” a reader can already see the rhetoric was dialed back. Further down it says, that after Trump entered a meeting, “Trump turned and left the three-minute meeting.” Notice the further one goes into the article, the less stringent his actions became. Simply put, the AP realizes that few anti-Trump people will read far enough to downgrade his actions and will tout their headline, giving it credence. That is what AP wants them to believe and it is what anti-Trump individuals want to think. It’s a good match for them.

But I like unbiased work. The headline could just as easily said, “Trump left meeting” or even “Trump abruptly left meeting.” Those would be accurate and without malice, which is not something the AP would project when it involves a Republican, the brunt of the current media’s ire.

An individual can pick out an AP story without even looking at the byline, due to its slant. Not long ago, the Rapid City Journal ran this piece, also from the Associated Press. The headline read, “Trump pledges water for wealthy Calif. Farmers.” If you took the time to read the article you would understand that there is an intricate water system of dams, pipes and canals, which takes care of the runoff from rain and snow melt. The federal government, the state and farmers paid to build the system. It was designed so water can be brought to the Fresno area of the Central Valley Farm Hub — where much of Americans’ food is grown. That means it is food for any of us in this region, especially during the winter when most of us can’t grow our own. In other words, it is personal to each of us.

The words “wealthy farmers” is the misleading phrase in this headline. Nowhere else besides the headline is wealth, or even money, mentioned. I know from experience that just because a commodity check is large, by nonfarmers’ standards, the reality is, sometimes the expenses are greater than the check. We had a Grade A dairy for five years in partnership with my brother and his wife. Each pay period we paid the bills and split what was left for our family living. Some months there was nothing left to split, even though the check was for several hundred dollars. It wasn’t mismanagement, but the cost of doing business.

Headlines are often written to misinform, rather than accurately inform. They frame a story. Make no mistake, these frames are often not supported when readers take the time to read the entire article. When seeking information, don’t stop at the headlines.

Peggy Sanders

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