Bias? Or a failure to follow style guidelines?

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on September 8, 2008

The New York Times is getting some grief -- perhaps deserved -- for its seeming failure to consistently label GOP vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a governor. A secondary complaint is that the married Palin is also described as Ms. and not Mrs.

The article in question is this one, a mostly puff piece with a few recycled left-wing digs (notably that she showed "questionable" judgment when she boarded planes in Denver and Seattle while she was leaking amniotic fluid). The piece opens with:

Sarah Palin’s baby shower included a surprise guest: her own baby. He had arrived in the world a month early, so on a sunny May day, Ms. Palin, the governor of Alaska, rocked her newborn as her closest friends, sisters, even her obstetrician presented her with a potluck meal, presents and blue-and-white cake.

Most had learned that Ms. Palin was pregnant only a few weeks before. Struggling to accept that her child would be born with Down syndrome and fearful of public criticism of a governor’s pregnancy, Ms. Palin had concealed the news that she was expecting even from her parents and children until her third trimester.

She's identified as a governor in the caption of one of the photos, but not in the story. A look at the Palin topic page and the stories linked there show hit-and-miss labeling of Palin.

Maybe this treatment isn't suspicious. Maybe this is the Times style for all female governors.

So, I looked up Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire. The most recent article on her was published April 1.

SEATTLE — Gov. Christine Gregoire of Washington is expected to sign a measure on Tuesday that would give the state some of the toughest rules in the nation restricting toxic materials used in children’s products, though it was unclear just how broad the measure would be.

How about the other prominent woman politician in the public spotlight, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton? Does she get her title in Times articles?

Of the first 10 articles on her topic page, she's identified as a senator in nine of them. The tenth is a feature piece on Clinton that refers extensively to her pre-married days, long before she was a senator. (Note that the Palin piece in today's Times is focused on the birth of her son Trig, which occurred while she was governor.)

Now let's look at the Ms. vs. Mrs. labeling.

In that aformentioned Gregoire article, Gregoire, who is married, is a "Ms."

Sen. Clinton, with the exception of the article I noted, is a Mrs.

I'm unclear what the rhyme or reason is on that labeling decision.

So, is this an example of deep-seated bias on the part of the New York Times? You got me.

I'd like to sit here and exonerate the Times. I'd like to point out that the quality of copy editors, even at the "paper of record" may vary widely. Based soley on my experience, I'd lean toward uneven editing quality.

However, the Times has a record of being a liberal newspaper and denying that fact. It's not as transparent as it should be when it comes to the inner workings of the newsroom -- probably because it's a liberal newspaper and it denies that fact.

So, I can see why people look at this and cry "bias."

The Times has only itself to blame for their skepticism.

0 comments on “Bias? Or a failure to follow style guidelines?”

  1. The MSM will keep going at her. I have a prediction. Her job as the VP candidate is to be the tough guy on the other party's head of ticket. In the hundreds of unscripted moments that she will have between now and the election, I predict she will accidentally say something that someone somewhere will construe as racist. The MSM then will dive in to the debate in full force and try to take her down.

    She is going to have to be at the absolute top of her game, or the press will have her looking like David Duke before this is over.

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