Does Size Matter?
In order to give the appearance of being "fair and balanced", I cut out two articles from the May 27, 2005, New York Times.
The articles share two, two inch wide, twenty inch long columns. Both articles mention the payment of fines for wrongdoing, arising out of the violation of campaign finance laws.
One article occupies all but the last five and a half inches at the bottom of the second column. There are three large headlines across both columns for the first story:
"Treasurer of a Texas PAC Is Fined Nearly $200,000
Official of Committee Formed by DeLay
The three headlines, take up one and a half inches across both columns. If one did not look carefully, one might not even notice the other story.
The larger story deals with a finding by a Texas judge that a political action committee formed by United States Representative Tom Delay, the House majority leader broke campaign finance laws.
Once you read the story, it turns out that there was no mention of Mr. Delay in the court decision. He was not a party to the action and was not held responsible for the actions of the committee. Yet the headline clearly mentions Delay.
The second story has a bold print headline spanning the width of one column, the type no bigger than the size of the rest of the text on the page. The headline reads, "Jesse Jackson and Democrats Fined.
" This story does not contain a byline as the Delay story does, and is credited to the (AP).
According to this article, the amount of funds spent illegally by Jesse Jackson working with the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and the Citizenship Education Fund, was $450,000. The amount that the Texas PAC misspent was $532,333.00.
In the Texas PAC Case, "The judgment awarded nearly $200,000 to five Democrats who were ousted by Republican candidates...
In the Jesse Jackson case, the fines total $200,000 and according to the article $100,000 will be paid by Mr. Jesse Jackson and two groups that he worked with, and $100,000 will be paid by the Democratic National Committee.
I do think both stories are equally telling of the corrupt practices that are used by all parties during the election and neither story carries more repugnance.
It is a clear example of how news reporting can assign value to stories that you the news consumer might not agree with.