Four McClatchy reporters–essentially all Kansas statehouse reporters for the brand that includes the Kansas City Star and the Wichita Eagle–revealed an ugly bias in the first sentence of a story about Gov. Brownback receiving a vote to forward his confirmation for a post in the Trump administration.
The story lede editorializes, in what should be a straight forward story. Brownback, readers learn, received a Senate vote that moves his confirmation as the U.S. Ambassador at-large for Religious Liberty one step closer to completion. Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote, and the Senate is expected to take a final, formal vote to confirm the Kansas Governor on Thursday.
That’s not how McClatchy spun the tale. The reporters begin, “Kansas Republican Sam Brownback, one of the most unpopular governors in the country, is nearing the exit ramp from his controversial governership.”
Was there a recent poll on Brownback’s popularity? No. The McClatchy story links to a story now nearly 10 months old, so what makes it so relevant that it deserves top-billing in a story today? The only reasonable answer is bias.
The McClatchy tale goes on to rehash the details of Brownback’s lengthy confirmation process and explain that Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer will become the state’s top executive. There was no reason to call Brownback’s time in office “controversial” in the first sentence, though calling his nomination such may be warranted. The story does explain that Planned Parenthood–a controversial organization in and of itself–and the LGBT community opposed his nomination.
The story doesn’t detail what exactly makes Brownback’s governorship “controversial,” however. No experts are quoted. No evidence is presented. The first sentence simply editorializes Brownback’s term as such. That four reporters examined that start for the story and found it a balanced representation is stunning and revealing.
Kansas reporters dealt Brownback a biased hand from the very beginning of his time in office. As the end of his term nears, it’s clear they see no reason to start dealing fairly now.