Monday, February 13, 2012

Op-Ed Balance Test

I've started a little content analysis project at my dining room table. For the next month, I'm going to read every op-ed and political cartoon in the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press and assign each a political label. At least to start, those labels are R (Right or conservative), L (Left or liberal), or N (neither). I may add more labels if it makes sense, given the content that appears.

My hypothesis is that the Pioneer Press will have a much higher percentage of conservative content.

I decided to start this project after I realized over the past week that the PiPress seems, at least on many days, to run exclusively right-wing writers, while the Star Tribune (sometimes called the "Red Star," believe it or not, by our local right wing fringe) never runs all lefties, and frequently runs conservatives. This isn't news, of course; the PiPress has always been regarded as the more conservative of the two papers, but lately it seems more pronounced.

But since I know about confirmation bias, I'm counting the articles to make sure I'm not jumping to the conclusion that serves my point of view.

I'm not including editorials or letters to the editor. I wasn't going to include cartoons, either, until this one from Saturday's Star Tribune whacked me in the eyes:

Wow, that's about the most biased cartoon I've seen in a mainstream newspaper in a long time.

Talk about a false dichotomy. On one side we have a holy commandment about not killing -- which makes up one sentence in a book full of commands from God to scourge and kill nonbelievers and even disobedient children -- and on the other a quote from a single human being who represented no one but herself. Yes, I'm sure each individual woman chooses to use contraceptives because she thinks she's part of "the unfit." It couldn't have anything to do with already having children to take care of, being in school, having an illness that makes pregnancy dangerous, or just thinking the world has enough people already. I'm glad we've got Mr. Mike Lester to tell us women what it means to have choices about our own bodies.

Part of the problem with this false dichotomy is that the angel seems to be referring to abortion, while Sanger was talking about contraceptives. Does the cartoonist belong in the "every sperm is sacred" camp that thinks preventing conception is somehow murder?

(Looking into the cartoonist, Mike Lester of the Rome [Georgia] News-Tribune even a wee bit reveals that he thinks Obama is a socialist, so that tells you something about his judgment. )

With cartoons like this, no one can say that the Strib is a clear voice of liberalism. And that's probably the point of it. It seems to me that the editors are trying to atone for this recent L.K. Hanson cartoon that's been drawing irate letters from Christians and members of the D.A.R. lately:

Quote from poet Joseph Brodsky on extreme individualism as a defense against evil, juxtaposed with a drawing of a Nancy Reagan-type woman with a pointed party hat and round clown nose, wearing a cross and DAR, USA, and Just Say No button
Illustration by L.K. Hanson; used by permission.

I fail to see the equivalence between Hanson's gentle sarcasm and Lester's sledgehammer methods. 

1 comment:

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

It will be interesting to see how the numbers tally up. I've noticed that the PiPress seems to omit any liberal balance most days.