Now, I’m not one to nitpick about subtleties and nuances in the art of communication, because one can too easily read motive and bias into something even when a writer is simply trying to tell a straight-forward story and picks nouns, verbs and adjectives containing multiple levels of connotations.
Merely as an exercise in the examination of potential spin doctoring, mind you, let’s take a look at the Friday front page of The New York Times. This was the same edition that included an editorial calling the previous day’s Supreme Court ruling reversing political spending limits on corporations and unions a "blow to democracy" and calling on the court to "rescue democracy."
The banner was simple and declarative: "Justices, 5-4, Reject Corporate Campaign Spending Limit." But the subhed augered in on the dissent rather than the majority: "Dissenters Argue That Ruling Will Corrupt Democracy."
The lede of the story contained an adjective I might have excised as the copy editor: important, as in "Overturning two important precedents …"
Later in the story: "The justices in the majority brushed aside warnings about what might follow from their ruling in favor of a formal but fervent embrace of a broad interpretation of free speech rights."
Then there was the sidebar chosen for the front page, which was headlined: "Lobbies’ New Power: Cross Us, And Our Cash Will Bury You." (The online version has a different hed.) Seemed a bit presumptive to me. The story stated matter-of-factly that the ruling "seeks to let voters choose for themselves among a multitude of voices and ideas," but "it will also increase the power of interest groups at the expense of candidates and political parties."
I wonder what the Timesmen would have said about a law limiting the spending of political parties?
Anyway, it is subtle tattletales in word choice that give people too much ammunition to scream that all news media are lackeys of the liberal East Coast establishment. I’m sure a few can be found in the R-J, too. After all, I get calls weekly accusing us of being both right-wing nut jobs and socialist-leaning lapdogs.
It is the realtivistic theory of journalism. If you agree with what you read, you don’t see a problem. If you disagree, it is the fault of the reporter.