Seven years ago I began a post on media bias with the following opening paragraph:
It is not uncommon for conservatives or bloggers — and especially conservative bloggers — to engage in rants about the bias of the “mainstream media.” This is not one of those rants. It is a rant about an extraordinary expression of bias up one creek of what might be called the tributary media, the small, specialized publications that cover one industry or topic.
Seven years later conservatives, and even other sensible people, are even less surprised by biased or incompetent news articles in the mainstream press. Two recent examples, however, provide a useful reminder that biased or incompetent news coverage is not limited to the mainstream press.
Inside Higher Ed
Scott Jaschik is editor and one of three founders of Inside Higher Ed, a highly specialized industry-specific publication dealing, as you might guess, with higher education. A few days ago, in a long, tendentious article, “Freedom of Religion or Freedom to Discriminate?” editor Jaschik wrote:
Just days after the Hobby Lobby decision, the U.S. Supreme Court barred the government from requiring Wheaton College of Illinois to fill out a form to be exempt from the new federal requirement that employers provide health insurance coverage that includes contraceptive coverage.
In fact, the Court did no such thing. The authority Jaschik cites in the passage above for his misstatement is … another article by Jaschik, “Religious College Exemption,” whose lead paragraph has the same misstatement:
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court, in a surprise ruling Thursday, barred the government from requiring Wheaton College of Illinois to fill out a form to be exempt from the new federal requirement that employers provide health insurance coverage that includes contraceptive coverage.
Jaschik’s immediately following paragraph, however, begins with a sentence that reveals why his sweeping statements are misleading to the point of being false: “The Supreme Court order says that, pending a full review of the case, Wheaton needs only to inform the government that it has religious objections to parts of the health care law.”
That’s right. The Court has not ruled on whether Wheaton must fill out the forms required by the Obamacare regulations. All it did was rule that Wheaton need not fill out the forms while its challenge was being litigated, a far different and more limited result.
This is not the first time I’ve noticed Jaschik engaging in behavior that would, or should, make most professional journalists embarrassed. For chapter and verse on Jaschik going even beyond inviting college “diversity” officers to tell him what to write by offering to give them “off the record” coaching sessions, see my old post on “Egregious Media Bias At InsideHigherEd” from which my opening paragraph here is taken.
Roll Call, another speciality publication covering one industry, Congress, has a blog-like section called “Inside the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body.” In a piece there yesterday, “Birth Control Legislation Stalls in Senate,” Sarah Chacko wrote:
Senators blocked legislation Wednesday that would have required Hobby Lobby and other private employers with religious interests to pay for birth control….
The bill (S 2578) would upend a Supreme Court ruling last month in a case involving Hobby Lobby, in which they [sic] argued that they [sic] should not have to cover employees’ contraception, as required by President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, because of the owner’s religious beliefs. The Supreme Court agreed.
Hobby Lobby, of course, never argued — and hence the Supreme Court certainly never agreed — that it “should not have to cover employees’ contraception….” It has not objected to covering 16 of the 20 forms of contraception on the FDA’s approved list relied on in the HHS implementing regulations (not in “President Barack Obama’s signature health care law”), limiting its objections to the four that run afoul of its owners religious beliefs regarding abortifacients.
When an editor like Scott Jaschik edits himself, one thinks of the old saw about the quality of the client when a lawyer represents himself. But in the case of of Roll Call‘s Sarah Chacko, doesn’t Roll Call have editors?