Two articles, one viewpoint

cosmosTwo articles in The Washington Post this weekend caught my attention (and some of our readers’ attention). Both took on a chunk of the big debate over “where we all came from” and both were displayed prominently in the main section of the paper.

A reader named Todd wondered if this article on the Post‘s science page was actually a news report or an op-ed piece. Considering the confusion many Americans have over the nature of newspapers’ editorial pages, this is not surprising. I heard Bill O’Reilly on a podcast today praise the departure of Michael Kinsley from the Los Angeles Times as a victory for those in L.A. who want balance in their local newspaper. Since when did Kinsley ever have any say on anything off the op-ed pages, Mr. O’Reilly?

I digress. Both articles are “news” articles in the traditional sense. They take a set of facts and lay them out with the pretense of allowing the reader to decide. But most readers should have little trouble discerning the viewpoint of the authors based on the placement of facts and what I will call the “credibility tone” given to the sources quoted in the piece. While both pieces are well written, the apparent lack of objectivity is a huge shortcoming in both articles.

Tmatt has previously addressed the issue of journalists giving alternative theories to evolution credibility, and I recommend that those who are interested go back and check out what he had to say and the ensuing debate in the comments section.

The main feature in the Post‘s science page was this article broadcasting loudly and clearly the newly discovered evidence that further proves evolution as a fact, plus two nicely designed graphics and a “money quote.”

The problem with the news article is that it didn’t seem all that newsy to me. Stuff like this has been trickling out for years, and the article is clearly intended, by the sources for the Postand most likely the Post’s science editors, to level a blow against the creation science movement, which has evolved into the “intelligent design” movement. The author behind this piece is quick to jump on new information without the skepticism that every reporter should carry when writing about a new development.

The second article that caught my attention was this A3 feature news story on a museum dedicated to creation science that has yet to fully open.

The article attempts to show the difference between creation science and intelligent design, but the reporter spends much time dismissing the theories presented by the scientists behind the museum. In all fairness the article, in my opinion, is an honest effort at objectivity, but this issue is simply too hot and ideologically driven for almost any reporter to truly show 100 percent objectively in 1,300 words. To the Post‘s credit, both articles were filed in the science section of its website. Alas, the shortcomings of newspaper journalism.

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  • Roger Bennett

    I started suspecting a few years ago that an honest account of the case for evolution must be quite complicated.

    That there must be a strong case is attested (though not proven conclusively) by a supermajority of scientists who believe it. That the case is complicated is attested by the habitual resort to ridicule of opponents and to dishonest “Icons of Evolution” (Jonathan Wells’ term from his book of that title) in textbooks to indoctrinate high school students. (Should we simply bracket the teaching of evolution until college or grad school if we can’t teach it honestly in lower grades?)

    By extension, the issue probably is too complicated for ready treatment in the popular press. Maybe that conclusion is unpalatable to journalists – maybe even a supermajority – but I suspect it’s true.

  • http://terrenceberres.com Terrence Berres

    “… the creation science movement, which has evolved into the ‘intelligent design’ movement.”

    Wouldn’t that assertion be subject to criticism by Intelligent Design Intelligent Design?

  • tmatt

    Terrence:

    I think what Daniel is stating is the conviction of the MSM that this is what has happened. Actually, I think the imporant point in the WPost article about this new creationist museum is the degree to which the reporter strives to let the reader know that these are two entirely different groups of people.

  • http://myroblyte.blogspot.com NBR

    A side note — Answers in Genesis praises the Post article on its site as
    “generally balanced… for which we are very grateful.” It goes on to remark that the reporter “was clearly taken by the quality of the museum … His visit and background research led him to write that the creation movement (i.e., those who accept a literal Genesis) is growing ‘stronger by the year’ in America.”


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