Media stacks the deck in favor of pre-conceived conclusions

Media stacks the deck in favor of pre-conceived conclusions

[Catching up on some older items I’ve been meaning to blog.]

Harry Forbes catches the Boston Globe drumming up sources who will confirm the conclusions that reporters have already drawn.

Ever wonder how Globe reporters get in touch with the dodgy folks who often end up as sad sack poster children for Globe stories? For example last month, the Globe ran a “tough economy” story that featured a family who had moved to Maine and were suffering from high gas prices. But both mom and dad still commuted to work from Maine all the way to Massachusetts. I asked how does the Boston Globe always find “poster children” such as this? Here is one way. The Globe’s main web page solicits people to get in touch with reporters who are working on future stories.

Five of the six solicitations on the front page of the Globe’s site when he wrote the blog entry were looking for people who are suffering in hard economic times, although “suffering” may be a bit of a stretch since one story focused on people who couldn’t go to Disney World for vacation. Oh the humanity! Here’s another one: “As gas prices rise, the value of SUVs is dropping. We’re looking for SUV owners who’ve found the trade-in value of their SUV is less than expected.” In other words, the reporter has concluded that the high gas prices are negatively affecting the trade-in value of SUVs and are looking for people who will support that point of view.

The problem with this approach is that the people who are still going to Disney World or who are able to sell their SUVs for a good price are not going to respond to the request. They don’t fit the profile and thus the story will only reflect the points of view of those who do, even if they are the one in a hundred or a thousand for whom they do.

This is shoddy journalism.