WaPo Editor Responds to CMI’s Complaint about Pro-Gay Marriage Bias

Last week, the Culture & Media Institute published a study of The Washington Post's coverage of the legalization of same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia. CMI found overwhelming bias in the Post's reporting during the seven days after gay couples could begin applying for marriage licenses. The celebratory tone of many of the articles was enough to merit charges of bias, but CMI had numbers to back them up.

During an online Q & A on March 15, CMI got the opportunity to ask Post Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli about the biased reporting. Here, in full, are the question and the answer:

Alexandria, VA: In the week after gay marriage was legal, the Post devoted 543 column inches to gay issues. Those stories quoted gay marriage advocates 67 times compared to opponents just 6 times. How can you defend how the Post has handled this story, especially since for all your push for home rule, this decision never even went to the voters who likely would have rejected it.

Marcus Brauchli: The polls don't necessarily support your view that gay marriage would have been rejected by voters (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/06/AR2010020602300.html). But, in any case, the issue of gay marriage crosses a lot of important terrain--civil liberties, religion, local economics, national politics and, yes, home rule. I don't know how you're counting quotes. We quoted many people who were able to marry because of the legal change; it's hard to see how you'd cover a change of this magnitude without talking to the people most affected by the change. I can assure you, though, that we were just as intent on reflecting the views of those who opposed the ideas as we were those who favored it."

Hmmm ... Here's a quick summary of CMI's analysis:

In seven days, the Washington Post:

  • Ran 11 articles related to D.C.'s new law allowing same-sex marriage.
  • Devoted 543 inches of column space to the ruling - equal to nearly four full pages.
  • Printed 14 photos of gay celebrations, including a prominent one of two men kissing.
  • Quoted supporters more than 10 times more often than opponents - 67 to 6.
  • Repeatedly compared gay marriage to the historic civil rights movement. 
  • Compared a veteran gay activist to America's founding fathers.

That doesn't exactly come across as being "as intent on reflecting the views of those who opposed the ideas as we were those who favored it." In fact, it's a 10-to-1 difference. Perhaps the Post can find a private school somewhere to help them with math.

Matthew Philbin
Matthew Philbin
Matt Philbin is Managing Editor of MRC Culture