Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Biased Headline of the Week #1

I know already. Some of you don't believe in a liberal bias in the media, despite my best effort at times to point it out to you. A stubborn lot you are.

Bias is often seen most prominently in headlines. How many times have you read an article and thought wow, that content did not match the headline that drew me in to the article in the first place? Happens to me a lot. Especially in the left-media.

Let's to to the Huffington Post for an example this week. (Do I even have to make the case that HuffPo has a left-bias? No, I don't.) I clicked on my HuffPo link this week, and in all of the Sarah Palin bashing / email diving I found this headline :

"Sarah Palin emails written at an 8th grade level"

Really? That can't be good. Read: Sarah Palin is stupid.

With trepidation I click on the link and I'm sent to an article on "AOL Weird News". It's weird news that Sarah Palin writes at an 8th grade level? Why? But, there I find an expanded headline:

"Sarah Palin emails written at an 8th grade level - Better than some CEOs".

Okay, that's a different spin. Better than CEOs? What's that about?

It turns out that AOL Weird News sent samples of the Palin emails to analysts for evaluation. Did they have a GOTCHA! agenda for doing so? What would you guess given the frenzy of the Palin email search?

"I'm a centrist Democrat, and would have loved to support my hunch that Ms. Palin is illiterate," said 2tor Chief Executive Officer John Katzman.

First of all, there are no "Centrist Democrats". He' is a run of the mill Democrat, as ill informed as most Dems on the state of Palins literacy. Had he read either of Palin's books he could not hold the opinion that she is illiterate. But, he clearly hasn't read her books. Leaving me to wonder who is the illiterate one. So, did he find what he expected to find and bolster his preconceived notions about Palin?

"However, the emails say something else. Ms. Palin writes emails on her Blackberry at a grade level of 8.5."
Still, it's an 8.5 grade level. Don't we expect high school graduation level of communication? How does she compare to others tested?

Although it's like comparing apples to oranges, Payack said that famous speeches like Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address was a 9.1 and Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" oration rated a 8.8 on the scale.
Okay, now we have some measure of comparison. How did the CEO who believed her illiterate score on his own work?

"... admitting that emails he wrote scored lower than Palin's on the widely used Flesch-Kincaid readability test."
Are her emails muddled? Hard to understand? Adequate for a leader? Well, the analysis shows this:

"If she were a student and showing me her work, I'd say 'It's fine, clear writing,'"
and this:

"She came in as a solid communicator," said Paul J.J. Payack, president of the Global Language Monitor."

and this:
She's very concise. She gives clear orders. Her sentences and punctuations are logical," Payack said. "She has much more of a disciplined mind than she's given credit for."
How about the author of the AOL Weird News article. He's a writer. Surely his work would score much much higher on the scale, right?

"Editor's Note: In the interest of fairness, the writer submitted his own work for scrutiny. His recent piece, on a New York man trying to row across the Atlantic Ocean is on the 8.8 grade level, Payack said."

Bottom line: The headline writer on Huffington Post wanted you to think that Sarah Palin is stupid. The CEO of the testing company wanted to confirm that she was illiterate. Neither is true, as the body of the article validates.

Watch for biased headlines this coming week. They are not hard to find.

Oh, and surely we'll be seeing Barack Obama's emails subjected to the same scrutiny by Huffington Post, right? Don't hold your breath.

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