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Taking sides again

The Associated Press's version of the debate in Congress over proposed changes to overtime rules:

The 54-45 vote marked a rare defeat for business interests in the GOP-controlled Congress and left the fate of the emerging Labor Department regulations unclear. The House backed the new rules this summer, and congressional negotiators will have to resolve the issue.
Emphasis added. As I've pointed out ad nauseum, media bias doesn't generally show up in the big obvious ways caricatured by liberals and conservatives alike. It's the implicit assumptions in the stories, presented as if they were fact:

  • If it's a Republican proposal, it must be for the benefit of "business interests."
  • If it's for the benefit of "business interests," it must be anti-labor, because the world is always a zero-sum game.
  • The interests of all employees are aligned, so one set of labor representatives can speak for all.

    Here were have a set of policy proposals, which the Bush administration says will help employees, and Congressional Democrats say will hurt employees. And the reporter simply assumes that Democrats are correct -- after all, a Republican surely couldn't be motivated by a desire to help employees.

    It's this sort of bias, unstated, unmeasurable in the aggregate, which pervades the media. It's the bias which prevents a reporter from even considering the possibility that even if the policy helps "business interests," it might also help workers. This isn't malice; it likely isn't motivated by partisanship. It's just the result of ideological blinders; reporters have set views on the way the world works, and they convey them to all of us.

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