“Selection and emphasis” — those are the two processes by which bias enters the news. Phil, your account of rowdy conduct by some Obama supporters in Leesburg, reminds me of a conversation I had many years ago with a veteran news editor. The question of what goes into the top of a story and what goes into the 19th paragraph, what goes at the top of Page One and what goes on page B6 — these are the choices made by editors and reporters that shape public perception.
Whenever I go out on the road to do campaign coverage, I always end up with more notes than I could possibly fit into a 1,000-word story. Choices are made. In the universe of facts, no single article can contain every fact that can be known. So reporters and editors must exercise news judgment in selecting what to repoprt. It is in those selections that bias becomes a factor.
When reporters provide coverage of the McCain campaign where negative stories outnumber positive stories 4-to-1, it’s pretty obvious that their news judgment is not balanced. I will note, however, that the First Amendment does not require balance. Newspaper editors and TV news producers can be as biased as they wish; the audience, however, should understand that they’re not getting the full truth.