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OPINION - Reporting and blaming

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU)  It was such a one-sided piece of reporting that it was taken down, scrubbed, and re-posted. Usually news media bias is subtle. This was blatant.

The Washington Post reported that the government shut down at midnight “because Republicans continued to stubbornly oppose President Obama’s signature health care initiative.”

Well, if you’re going to write it that way – why not report that the reason for the shutdown is because of  a) …the U.S. Senate stubbornly refusing to consider House resolutions that would fund the government and/or b)  … President Obama stubbornly refusing to compromise on his health care plan’s implementation schedule?

I’ve worked in radio newsrooms since I was 17. Never once did I hear of a meeting of the liberal-supporters-society. Never once have I heard of a left-slanted story killed by a right-leaning owner. News bias is generally internalized within individual reporters. But sometimes, like the late-night story posted on the Post’s web site, the regular editor may have gone home for the evening, the reporter has an emotional investment in an impassioned debate, and something like that comes out. The GOP is characterized as stubborn, even though it’s clear neither side is giving an inch. Obamacare is a signature achievement, although everyone knows that the law as deep flaws.

Republicans still have trouble controlling the debate. They don’t even speak the argument that needs to be made. None of them, not a single one, voted for Obamacare. Yet they are all in Washington, each and every one, because they won an election back home. When one of them is confronted with a national poll suggesting the shutdown is unpopular, where is the response that 'my voters expect, actually insist, that I oppose Obamacare any way I can.'? If not, voters in my district would have sent the other guy to Congress instead of me. Why is my Election Day victory any less legitimate the Barack Obama’s victory? Make the argument that he should compromise. A congressman represents the somethingth-district from the northwestern corner of some corn belt state. The opinion of those voters is clear. Yet the President supposedly represents the entire nation, from the liberal Oregon coast to conservative eastern Kansas. A congressman can make the argument that their votes align perfectly with the vast majority in their district. A President knows that his policies may be intensely unpopular in some parts of the country.

I still think the most likely outcome is a Republican cave-in. The GOP should remember the media narrative works against them in situations like this. I’m not sure that’s been fully calculated into their shutdown strategy.

Chris Conley
10.1.13