How do reporters divine intent?


The idea that reporters have bias in a story is nothing new. All reporters have their views, but they are trained to write through the bias.

You'd think that the New York Times would be one of the best newspapers at writing it down the middle. But you'd be wrong. And yesterday's news story on President Obama flip on gay marriage provides a perfectly bad example. The NYT wrote:

"WASHINGTON — Before President Obama left the White House on Tuesday morning to fly to an event in Albany, several aides intercepted him in the Oval Office. Within minutes it was decided: the president would endorse same-sex marriage on Wednesday, completing a wrenching personal transformation on the issue."

Now you tell me how in the hell the NYTs reporters were able to devine that the change in policy completed "a wrenching personal transformation on the issue."

Unless they are mind readers, I suppose they meant to say that it was aides who characterized it as a "wrenching personal transormation." Or maybe that Obama said it was so. But the story provides no hint of that, leaving us only to conclude that this was the writers' conclusion.

And how could they conclude that? Wouldn't it be more reasonable to conclude that it was a flip-flop for political convenience? Obama, after all, went on to use the change to raise money.

Like I say, it's nothing new. But it's sad to point out when it happens.

PS: What's even more sad is that these writers and editors work at the nation's most prominent newspaper.

PPS: If I had written something like that, my old city editor would have chewed me out for it. "How do you know it was 'wrenching,' kid?"

PPPS: My biggest worry is that kind of bias is condoned by the NYT. Nothing but praise will be heaped on the writers.