June 3, 2001
by David Kopel
"The American Legion has decided to look into a group of anti-war protesters. The Legion, which has exposed foreign spies and communist front groups, agrees that the anti-war protesters are not spies or communists, but the Legion is concerned about the type of people who may be attracted to the anti-war organization."
Would such an announcement from The American Legion deserve coverage as the top story in the Denver and the West section of The Denver Post, plus an Associated Press rewrite of the Post story that then appeared in the Rocky Mountain News?
The correct answer is, "Of course not." But that's precisely what the Post / AP / News troika did when the local Anti-Defamation League (ADL) confirmed that it would "monitor" the Tyranny Response Team (TRT), a Bill of Rights group based in Longmont.
As the online magazine Colorado Freedom Report ( www.co-freedom.com ) details, the article is unable to actually specify any illegal conduct by the Tyranny Response Team, although some people are offended that the TRT bluntly argues that gun prohibition paves the way for genocide. The ADL is a prominent Jewish group, and the Post prominently mentions the ADL's role in fighting anti-Semitism and white supremacists.
So now that the ADL is "looking into" the TRT, the article would have been more balanced if it mentioned that the group's founder, Bob Glass, is a Jew whose relatives were murdered in the Holocaust, and that Glass' magazine The Partisan fervently denounces Nazism and all other racist theories.
Presenting these facts might have helped readers make up their own minds about whether it is likely that Glass' group "may attract" white supremacists or anti-Semites.
Both the News and Post covered the Boulder High School "kiss-in" that was held to protest the school's decision not to publish a picture of a lesbian kiss in the yearbook without permission from the students' parents. Both papers did a good job of presenting both sides of the controversy. But for photo coverage, the Post was a clear winner.
First of all, the Post printed a copy of the controversial yearbook photo, so that readers could judge for themselves. And the Post also printed a photo of two Boulder High School girls giving each other a peck on the lips.
The News however, printed a picture that the paper salaciously touted as "easily the most show-stopping embrace" - a pair of women who don't even attend Boulder High (one was an alum) engaged in an all-out tongue wrestle. For a student protest, why not have photos of real students, rather than publicity-seeking outsiders?
"Blond, Bland and Booming" is how the News headlined its story about Stonegate, a community of 6,000 in western Douglas County. The text tells us that 60.1 percent of Stonegate households "are married couples with children." But the text also claims that "Nearly all residents . . . are in their 30s with young children." If only 60 percent are married couples, of any age, with children, then it's impossible that "nearly all" residents are couples in their 30s with young children. In fact, probably fewer than 60 percent are - since some married couples with children are in their 20s, 40s, 50s, or 60s, and some married couples with children don't have "young children."
The reporter quotes a member of the homeowners board who calls Stonegate "like one of those self-contained neighborhoods." The
article says that for some homeowners, "the place is almost too bland."
The article never specifies the percentage of the population which is white, but does claim that Stonegate is "nearly all" white. Even if Stonegate were 100 percent white married couples in their 30s with small children, does this really make the community "bland"? Some neighborhoods in Denver have populations almost entirely from a single race. Such neighborhoods might be short on diversity, but they're not bland.
A three-day series in the Post, running last Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday did an excellent job on the complex subject of genetically engineered foods. The series presented both sides of the controversy, and looked at the subject in-depth from a variety of angles.
Except for the article on GE labeling which ran on Tuesday. There, advocates of mandatory labeling for GE foods received much, much more space than did opponents. The small amount of space given to labeling opponents merely reported their argument that labeling laws should be nationwide, rather than state by state. The article never addressed the more substantive arguments of those who oppose a labeling mandate: that it will raise the price of food, and consumers who really care about buying non-GE food can already buy products from companies that voluntarily put a "non-GE" label on the wrapper.
While quoting several labeling proponents, the article did not quote a single skeptic. One advocate - "a natural foods activist from Boulder County" - was quoted as saying "It's about money." Had the article bothered to interview a skeptic, the skeptic might have pointed that there are financial motives on all sides of the issue. The article listed the countries which have forbidden or restricted the import of GE food from the U.S. But the article missed the rather obvious fact that one motive for these restrictions is "about money" - namely the desire of inefficient local farmers to protect themselves from competition from American farmers.