Unethical Website of the Month: Bloomberg News

Seldom does any news media organization make its absence of fairness and objectivity on a topic so obvious that there isn’t some room for argument, but Bloomberg managed to scale the heights with its headline to a story by reporter Heidi Przybyla. Her report covered the results of a Bloomberg poll designed to create a profile of the members of the Tea Party movement, which has been holding multiple demonstrations across the country to protest passage of President Obama’s health care reform bill.

The poll results themselves were unremarkable, given what we already have learned about the Tea Partiers’ objectives and objections. Over 90% of those polled by Bloomberg said that they feared that the nation was turning to socialism, with the federal government trying to control too many aspects of  Americans’ lives. In answer to another question,  70% felt that Obama’s Administration needed to put more resources into job creation. So Przybyla, her editors and Bloomberg’s management chose to headline the report with this:

“Tea Party Advocates Who Scorn Socialism Want a Government Job”

The statement is, of course, not a proper headline, but an accusation. It is a slanted conclusion designed to pre-dispose readers toward an anti-Tea Party point of view before reviewing the results of a poll that supposedly was intended to enlighten them so they could reach their own conclusions. The headline misrepresents the findings for the clear purpose of making those polled look like fools and hypocrites.

The primary problem with the headline, however, is that it is, beyond any question, a lie.

Those who answered the poll said nothing about wanting “a government job.” What was favored was more government spending on job creation, which need not involve socialism, and is a both a reasonable policy preference and one that is consistent with the government’s role in America for at least a century. To name only the most glaring example, the infrastructure of the United States is crumbling, with bridges, highways, airports and sewer systems already decaying to the point that it threatens, safety, health, transportation and commerce. All studies indicates that it will take trillions of dollars of reconstruction to forestall multiple catastrophes, and the responsibility for infrastructure (unlike health care) is a bedrock government function. Infrastructure projects create jobs with gusto. A poll response that suggested that the Obama administration was misguidedly focusing resources on socialist-style government take-overs of such industries as banking, automobile manufacture and health care was in no way imaginable inconsistent with the view that job creation is a more necessary, desirable and responsible use of taxpayer funds.

So here is a quiz: Since the Bloomberg headline to Przybyla’s story does not tell its readers what the poll actually shows, what does it tell us?

Your choices:

a. Bloomberg is so determined to slime the Tea Party movement for having the audacity to protest the health care bill that it is willing to resort to unethical journalistic practices that will end any pretence of objectivity and fairness.

b. It is Bloomberg’s employees, not the Tea Partiers, who don’t comprehend the difference between private sector jobs created by government projects and “government jobs.”

c. After getting fired, the air traffic controller who let his young son guide planes from the control tower at JFK joined Bloomberg as a headline editor, and let Junior compose this one.

d. All of Bloomberg’s editors were at a Tea Party rally when Przybyla posted her piece.

e. Don’t trust this website.

I’d pick a., b., and e. myself, but I have another theory. When the Tea Party movement was getting started, several of its more enthusiastic than informed participants were recorded expressing the inconsistent views that the government had no business meddling in health care and that Medicare was just fine the way it is, thanks. This seeming unawareness on the part of some protesters that Medicare is a government program was gleefully used by sneering pro-Obamacare talking heads to “prove” that all Tea Party supporters were dolts and yahoos. I think Bloomberg took its poll expecting and hoping that the results would give them a similar theme to discredit the Tea Party protests, and when it didn’t, its staff imagined one and reported it anyway.

e. No doubt about it.
[Thanks to Best of the Web for flagging the story and the headline.]

7 thoughts on “Unethical Website of the Month: Bloomberg News

  1. Pingback: Unethical Website of the Month: Bloomberg News Ethics Alarms

    • Sure—and you can check yourself—look up Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Marc Levin, etc,—it’s a user friendly blog that way. You do recognize, I hope, that most major news media isn’t conservative,but rather left-leaning pretending to be objective, hence on the bias issue, there is going to be more criticism from me regarding what they do than Fox, which at least is up front about its ideological leanings. Most of my conservative media criticism is of talk radio, because that’s where the Right is pre-eminent.

      Not that any of that changes what Bloomberg did, which is indefensible, and ought to be as offensive to ethical liberals as ethical conservatives.

      • Also, you slammed the Republican National Committee pretty hard not too many posts ago. As a person who appreciates (though often disagrees with) the Left, I get disgusted with those who assume that anyone who slams the conduct of liberal organizations is a fire-breathing right-wing nut-job.

        • It’s just a cheap way of trying to delegitimize legitimate criticism. Since (according to every study I’ve seem) about 85% of reporters and editors are liberal Democrats, criticism of bias in the news, if it’s not biased itself, will be heavier on the side of anti-conservative bias. Reading Media Matters, for example, is hilarious. It essentially has to argue that any non-positive coverage of progressive/liberal figures and issues must be biased, because they can do no wrong. MM has to look so hard to find bias that it strains credulity.

  2. Huh! , to the extent that will shortly arrive. So (unless you take “bedrock” literally), it’s a governmental function to keep crumbling bridges from killing people, but not to keep heart disease from doing the same thing. (In fact, as we all know, the government does both right now; method and degree are what’s at issue.)

    I am unwilling (read: terrified for my life) to enter the health care debate on either side. My point is that if job creation results from something the government proposes to do, that’s usually a factor in its favor, whether the proposal is seen as a “bedrock governmental function” or not. Other factors, of course, will figure in, and sometimes dominate, discussion of the proposal.

    Also, I don’t know if Bloomberg does things differently, but in all major newspapers the story writers have no control over the headline of a piece they write. I’ve listened for years to complaints from reporters about this. So we can criticize both Bloomberg and Heidi for the content, and Blooomberg for the headline, but on the surface, it seems unfair to connect Heidi with the headline. (There may be someone else to ferret out, but headline writers — like anonymous bloggers — usually keep their masks on.) Heidi may have had something to do with the headline, but I would presume not without further evidence.

    Other than that, your piece was spot on. And I’m comforted that on this website, anyway, the reporter writes the headlines, and so doesn’t get a Heidi-like pass for them. I’ll be watching!

    For things like: MAD SCIENTIST ETHICS, headlining an article reporting on a refereed “short communication” from a peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the Royal Entomological Society, which was founded in 1833 and has been publishing the journal in question since 1992 (see http://tinyurl.com/y8bv4oo) The abstract of the article reads:

    The article doesn’t plan or suggest anything, and your own writeup suggests that the plan YOU concocted (widespread, unmonitorable release of a zillion vaccine-bearing bugs) could have an ethical use if it was the only feasible alternative to mass death (whether mosquito-syringed-caused or not). Other ethical uses can also be imagined.

    “Mad Scientists”? I think that Dr. Frankenstein (who was, in the novel, quite troubled by ethical concerns) still has job security in that department.

    “Cyranose De Bugs ‘r’ Back” from Beany and Cecil may be in trouble, though. (I remember his first name as “Syringe-Nose”, but the Web says otherwise.)

  3. The opening lines of my post seem to have been chopped off. Genetically altered swordfish, no doubt, have been released.


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