Take this recent story by the Beacon on Proposition A, the 1/2 of 1 percent sales tax increase needed to preserve and expand public transportation in St. Louis. The article begins with a focus on the pro-transit campaign, and then shifts to an interview with John Burns, whom I've profiled here, about opposition to the campaign. The author writes:
A major sore point for Citizens for Better Transit [the tea party group opposed to Prop A] is Washington University, which it alleges gets thousands of passes for its students and staff at a greatly reduced price.She then included the response from Chancellor Mark Wrighton, who pointed out that the university is simply using a program at Metro that offers a reduced rate to any institution that buys in bulk. So the idea that Washington University is getting a "special deal" is ridiculous. This is nothing more than the fact that groups that buy in bulk get stuff at cheaper rates.
Yet, the author then goes back to quote another Metro critic, Tom Sullivan, as follows:
They don't have the deficit they're claiming and they're spending money on things they shouldn't be like subsidies for Washington University.
Here's what makes no sense. Why present this as a "person 1 said A, person 2 said not A" type of issue? There is a simple fact to the matter. All the reporter (Kathie Sutin) would need to do to answer the question is simply to ask Metro if this deal is available to other businesses.
Given that there is a fact to the matter, what possible value is there in simply presenting quotes from both sides? Beacon readers would be more informed on the issue if reality was plainly stated. By presenting the issue as something questionable, the Beacon is actually presenting a story that is not objective, because it is presenting information as questionable that is in fact true, and does so to the advantage of an anti-transit campaign that is working hard to misinform voters.
It's time to do away with the notion of "objectivity" that thinks that the way to be unbiased is to simply present two sides of the issues, even when there are clear, verifiable facts available (it's also worth noting that the way the media chooses the two "sides" is itself biased; the far right's opinion will always be included, but people to the left of the Democratic Party will generally be completely excluded from conversation). The anti-transit group's talking point that Wash U is getting a special deal is simply false, and the media needs to start working harder to inform their readers of basic facts like this.