Bias is pretty obvious to detect, especially when reporters and hosts admit to it.  On cable TV the easiest way to recognize it is when one channel frequently bashes a competing network and hosts on that channel.  They will promote their bias as a news story when what it’s really is journalistic trash talking.  Fox News and Tucker Carlson take aim at CNN and Don Lemon on a regular basis.  The same goes for CNN and Don Lemon when they go after Fox and Sean Hannity.  It’s a tit-for-tat, they suck, we are better, fake news, real news game of propaganda one-upmanship.  The attacks on credibility are entertaining at times and some might say they are done to cast a light on a news organizations complicit bias. For those that feel that way, I will call your defense of programming offense and raise your bias with a greater amount of truth.  Trash talking is better left off to sports.  If a news organization wants to earn the reputation of being fair and balanced or the most trusted name in news they should stick to reporting and place a warning banner at the beginning of all primetime shows that are opinion based and label it as such.  Kind of like movie ratings or network disclaimers that state they do not endorse the views and opinions of paid advertisers when they run infomercials. At least that way the average viewer would know what’s an opinion and what’s fact.

I’m going to give you two recent examples of subtle and hidden bias.  Pay close attention as the bias in the first example may seem like it’s obvious but the real bias is masked and not easy to detect.  The second example appears to give praise but will not give the rightful recipient credit.  It’s all designed to shape the audience’s opinion and tell a narrative. A narrative that promotes the network as being credible with journalistic integrity but really is anything but.

On Friday, July 19, 2019, CNN posted an article under their health section titled A rise in premature births among Latina women may be linked to Trump’s election, study says. I’ve included a link to the article if you want to read it. It’s from a documentary titled Giving Birth In California.  The first image you see is of a Hispanic woman and her newborn child.  Here is a portion of that article.

The United States 2016 election, when President Donald Trump was voted into office, may have been tied to a rise in premature births among Latina women across the US, according to a new study.

In the nine months beginning with November 2016, about 3.2% to 3.6% more preterm births to Latina women occurred above the levels of preterm births that would have been expected had the election not occurred, suggests the study, published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open on Friday.

Birth outcomes have long been used in medical research as indicators of acute stress among populations of women, and preterm birth, in particular, is linked with maternal stress, the researchers noted in their study.

“Because mothers and children are particularly vulnerable to psychosocial stress, our findings suggest that political campaigns, rhetoric, and policies can contribute to increased levels of preterm birth,” said Alison Gemmill, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and first author of the study.

The study showed only an association between premature births among Latina women and the election, not that the election directly caused any negative birth outcomes. To determine that, more research would be needed.

The study had some limitations, including that the researchers were unable to separate the data on Latina women to determine differences among those who were foreign-born versus those who were born in the United States, and only an association was found between preterm births and the presidential election — not a causal relationship.

“We think there are very few alternative explanations for these results. One possible explanation could be if there was a sudden change in the composition of Latina women giving birth around the time of the election,” Gemmill said. “A drop in the number of foreign-born women among all Latina women giving birth immediately after the election could have contributed to observed increases in preterm birth.”

The new study “is an important and unique illustration of the relationship between hostile immigration climate and health,” but the concept that this association exists is not new, said Michael Kramer, an associate professor of epidemiology at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta, who was not involved in the study.

There’s more to the article. Feel free to read it and watch the video if you want.  For purposes of this post what I’ve included tells you all you need to know in regards to the topic at hand.  So did you see the bias?  At first glance, this seems like a real news story that pertains to stress and how political stress has lead to an increase in premature births.  It singles out Hispanic women and does not include other races or nationalities.  The study focuses on women giving birth in highly populated coastal states and does not take into account the entire country as a whole or premature birth rates for more than the recent past.  It also casually mentions the data used on Latina women does not differentiate their immigration status.

The obvious bias is against the President and paints a clear picture to the reader that while they cannot prove him being elected has caused an undue stress on pregnant women, thereby increasing the number of premature births in the Latin community, the sentiment is expressed clearly towards the bottom of the article by Nancy Krieger, a professor of social epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.  She states, “Yes there is an old adage: ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.’ Actually divisive political rhetoric that is dehumanizing and that induces fear does cause harm,” she said. “It causes bodily harm and it’s a harm that can be transmitted from one generation to the next.”

Here is the bias and hidden agenda you may have missed: illegal immigration.  While claiming to be an unbiased news organization CNN with its reporters, hosts, and programming has long promoted a pro-illegal immigrant narrative.  The opposite is true for Fox News.  What coastal liberal elitists love to do in regards to illegal immigrants is paint the population with a narrow brush of being predominantly and oftentimes nothing but Hispanic.  Whenever the topic of illegal immigration is discussed the images are overwhelmingly of Latin women and children traveling from Central America through Mexico crossing into the US southern border.  Pictures of caravans and detention facilities dominate the news headlines and have done so more frequently since Trump made illegal immigration a centerpiece of his election and now reelection campaign.  One could make the argument that the media is only following his lead.

What does an illegal immigrant look like?  If your first answer is Hispanic I will not fault you for your response as the media has drilled that impression into your psyche.  The real answer is there is no answer.  Immigration and illegal immigrants do not fit into the single box of Hispanics coming from Mexico and Central America.  Migrants crossing the southern border that have been detained by border patrol come from almost every country you can think of.  Recent reports by CBP and Border Patrol have shown that citizens from over 100 countries from every continent account for the people in the detention facilities.  Using this narrative that illegal immigrants and Hispanics go hand in hand is fake news for one and in my opinion racist and misleading.

Here is the second example. CBS Evening News (titled CBS Weekend News for its weekend broadcasts) is the flagship evening television news program of CBS News, the news division of the CBS television network in the United States. The “CBS Evening News” is a daily evening broadcast featuring news reports, feature stories and interviews by CBS News correspondents and reporters covering events across the world. The program has been broadcast since July 1, 1941, under the original title CBS Television News, eventually adopting its current title in 1963. 

Norah O’Donnell was announced as the anchor effective July 15, 2019.  With a short amount of time as host she has tried her best to live up to the ratings and standards the show has earned since the days of pre-cable when viewers went to CBS, NBC or ABC for their nightly news and never questioned the anchor’s integrity. The ratings for the show have slipped since she took over as host but that can be expected as it takes time for viewers to become accustomed to a new face on their screen.

I watched several of her shows last week and noticed a recurring theme.  The majority of her leading stories focused on illegal immigration and the crisis at the southern border.  Naturally, the overcrowding at the detention facilities was highlighted. The stories had a familiar tone of empathy for Hispanic women and children that were being held for crossing illegally and placed the blame squarely on the President’s shoulders. Thus, giving the impression that illegal immigration is a new phenomenon that was brought on by the President’s determination to secure the southern border and decrease illegal immigration. Once again, coastal, liberal, elitist journalists promoting the narrative that illegal immigrants are predominantly Hispanic women and children who are in search of a better life.  In none of the footage shown on her stories covering this topic, you will find Asians, Africans, Europeans or any other demographic that is being held for crossing illegally.  The only images you will see when it comes to illegal immigration are those of people coming from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.

On one of her shows last week they showed a story of a woman who was recently released from prison. She spent over ten years in prison for selling drugs.  It was a feel-good story of sorts that showed a woman who went to prison, got out, fell on hard times, began dealing drugs again to support herself and went back to prison for it.  She was able to take advantage of the newly enacted First Step law that was designed to reduce the prison population for non-violent offenders.  The overall message was that the new law was having a positive impact on people that made bad decisions in their lives and gave them a second chance to reunite with their children and family and hopefully turn their lives around for the better.

When that story aired I was watching it with one of my coworkers.  He had never heard of the First Step Act and didn’t know when it came out or which President was responsible for pushing for its approval and ultimately signing it into law.  After watching that segment he still didn’t know.  That’s the hidden bias.  While the host and show’s reporters had no problem mentioning Trump when it came to the crisis at the southern border and placing the blame squarely on his shoulders not once did they disclose the fact that he and his administration received bipartisan support for the First Step Act and signed it into law earlier this year.  Doing so would have meant giving credit when it’s due.  Something many in the media have no intention of doing.

Fair and unbiased reporting, which used to be known as journalism, has all but vanished.  The definition of bias is prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.  When it comes to journalism, AmericanPressInstitute.org defines it as; journalism is the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information. It is also the product of these activities.  They go onto say, journalism can be distinguished from other activities and products by certain identifiable characteristics and practices. These elements not only separate journalism from other forms of communication, they are what make it indispensable to democratic societies. History reveals that the more democratic a society, the more news, and information it tends to have.  If the new standard shown by so-called journalists creates products that are identifiable by certain characteristics such as inherent political bias, can those same journalists lay claim that the reporting they are doing is indeed indispensable to a democratic society? When the lines between news and opinion are so blurred that the average viewer cannot distinguish fact from fiction, bias will be the downfall of a free and fair press.  In its place will be government-sponsored totalitarian propaganda.  Once that happens the government will control the Fourth Estate and the political parties in power will dictate our reporting.  For those with an unbiased view, some might say, we are already there.

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