Friday, March 20, 2015


Don’t let biased usage get past you in news articles

by Larry Geller

What’s not to like in this snip from the Star-Advertiser’s report on Governor Ige’s withdrawal of Carleton Ching’s nomination for head of the DLNR?

To a certain extent, the withdrawal of Ching's nomination ahead of a Senate vote demonstrated the sway that environmental and conservation interests maintain in Hawaii politics. Many of the groups that supported Ching's pick were tied to construction trade and business-oriented pursuits, while those opposing were generally environmental advocates and conservation-oriented.

[Star-Advertiser p. A1, Nomination Withdrawn, 3/19/2015]

The problem is the usage “environmental and conservation interests.” It’s a common right-wing ploy to try to attribute what is good for the public—you and I included—as a type of “special interest.” Note that on the other side are “construction trade and business-oriented pursuits.” Not exactly. Those are the special interests. The use of “pursuits” seems so non-threatening… yet if we let those “pursuits” have sway, the `aina will be paved over with asphalt.

Contrast the S-A usage with the Civil Beat story on the withdrawal of the same nomination:

That decision helped turn the tide in the closely divided 25-member state Senate against Ching, whose nomination had generated vociferous opposition from environmentalists and others.

[Civil Beat, Senators’ 11th-Hour Decisions Doomed Ching Nomination. 3/18/2015]

There’s nothing wrong with the label “environmentalists”. Or feminists, pacifists and so forth. And the writer recognized that opposition was quite broad by the use of “and others.” All of us care about the environment to some extent. Opposition to Ching’s nomination was broad indeed, and composed or ordinary members of the public who were concerned. Of course, there was also support from individual members of the public.

These are not “interests” and the Civil Beat article did not use that term.

Remember: special interests are the ones that want to put hormones in your milk, build condos for the ultra-rich, transform farmlands into townhouses, risk New York City’s pure water supply with fracking chemicals, build weapons and wage war. And then there’s the rest of us.

Is this a quibble? No, not when it fits into the context of bias in general news coverage in a paper.


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