Yahoo Rigged Bush Headline While Reuters Set Up Kyoto Strawman

June 8th, 2007 9:47 PM
More headline editorializing, this time on Yahoo. A June 5 Reuters article titled, “Bush bashes Putin on democracy on eve of G8 summit” sounds like Bush attacked Russian president Vladimir Putin, but the body of the article clearly did not support that view.

The headline told a very different story than the article. Editors not reporters are generally responsible for headlines, and they can greatly influence opinions about the news. The importance of a bias-free headline is that most people don’t read every word of every article; they often just skim the headlines. That meant the people who read just the headline got a very different impression from those who read the entire article (emphasis mine throughout):

"Russia is not our enemy," Bush said after meeting Czech leaders on a visit aimed at highlighting the country's emergence from Soviet domination.

He said he would urge Putin at the summit to cooperate with the U.S. plan to deploy a radar system in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland, but later in a speech took a dig at Moscow's record on democracy.

"In Russia reforms that once promised to empower citizens have been derailed, with troubling implications for democratic development," Bush said.

Wow. What bashing. Bush accurately stated that the promised Russian reforms “have been derailed.” In addition to Russia shirking the promised reforms, under Putin, Russia has reverted back to some of the oppressive hallmarks of the communist era, like media crackdowns, jailing dissidents and the mysterious deaths of people who dare to question Putin or the government. That sounds “troubling” to me, but I didn’t note any bashing.

The article itself was not bias-free and incorrectly framed the history of the Kyoto Protocol:

On global warming,another contentious issue where the Europeans have clashed frequently with Washington, it appeared leaders would make progress on goals to negotiate a follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol which Washington shunned in 2001.

This sentence was slickly written to make it seem as though Bush came into office and derailed the gung-ho Clinton policy on Kyoto. If Kyoto was “shunned” by Washington (meaning Bush) in 2001, then it was “shunned” by the Clinton administration in the ‘90s. When Bush came into office, he merely continued the policy set by his predecessor.

In 1998, Gore symbolically signed the Protocol but Clinton intentionally did not submit it for ratification, rendering it useless in America. The administration worried that it would devastate the American economy and disliked the exclusion of China and India. In the Senate, Republicans and Democrats alike voted unanimously (95-0) for the 1997 Byrd-Hagel Resolution, which rejected the treaty, but that statement made it seem as if Bush alone suddenly “shunned” Kyoto in 2001. That is patently false.

The Clinton-Gore administration essentially abandoned the Protocol before Bush ever had a chance to “shun” it, but to admit that wouldn’t help to perpetuate the myth that Bush is responsible for Kyoto’s failure.

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