Presumption of Bias

I was going to post this in the comments of a New York Times article, but it got kinda’ long:

I’ve read all the comments on this article (so far). One thing that puzzled me was the vitriol coming from gun advocates trashing this article for being slated against guns. Reading the article for a second time, I looked hard for bias, but didn’t find much one way or the other.

It starts out with the story of a man who is applying for a license to carry a concealed weapon. The surprising part is that the license is to be issued by Utah, even though he is a resident of Pennsylvania. Then, it mentions that the Supreme Court recently struck down an anti-gun law. After that, it describes the practice of getting out-of-state licenses, quoting various stats. Finally, it quotes people who are for and against the issue.

I believe what I’ve described is a typical rough outline for any piece of good investigative journalism*. If there is any bias, it would probably come from the section describing the opinions of advocates and detractors. What you’ll find is that it actually quotes proponents more often than opponents. Just look at the concluding paragraph: the last word is given to the gun advocates.

The one criticism mentioned in the article refers to the fact that Utah does not require applicants to have actually fired a gun. I don’t think the Times would be doing its job if it failed to mention this fact. If this seems alarming, it’s not their fault; many (if not most) reasonable people would be appalled.

As far as I can tell, this article describes facts of the situation as factually as humanly possible before allowing each side to have its say. If you’re reading this article and seeing it as slanted against guns, I think what you’re looking at are the facts. This reveals how gun advocates (presumably conservatives) assume the Times shoehorns liberal bias into all its articles. Ironically, it is their bias which prevents them from giving the article a fair shake.

* Other comments snidely point out how this phenomenon is not a recent development. The article is actually quite up-front about the fact that out-of-state licenses are a long-running trend; that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be reported. That just means that this piece falls into the category of investigative journalism.

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