(Disclosure: SpinSpotter is an Ant’s Eye View client)
The very cool service, SpinSpotter has announced a really cool project: The Hall of Shame for Online Spin. As the team puts it:
According to SpinSpotter founder Todd Herman, most reporters work hard to maintain objectivity and avoid factual error. “Many of the examples our community of SpinSpotters uncovers can be traced to rushed reporting or the need to over-simplify headlines,” said Herman. “But some contain patently false information or political theater presented as real news. We’re pleased people are discovering SpinSpotter and using our Spinoculars toolbar to bring truth and transparency to the Web. While I personally disagree with some of what our community thinks is spin, I’m thrilled to see a monologue become a dialogue.”
SpinSpotter has started a monthly Hall of Shame project to showcase some of the more egregious examples Spotted by users. The sins are divided several main types:
Sins of Omission
Reuters: Obama Pledges New Start With Muslims, January 20, 2009
SpinSpotter’s take: “This reporter accepted a blanket statement that all Muslims are ‘excited’ by President Obama and failed to mention that Muslims in Gaza were burning pictures of the President as he spoke,” said SpinSpotter founder Todd Herman.
When Numbers Lie
New York Times: The First Test, January 22, 2009
“Eleven of the programs in the bill account for the vast majority of the actual job creation. The rest may be worthy or not, but they have little to do with stimulus. The total package is so diffuse, it costs $223,000 to create a single job.”
SpinSpotter’s take: This Op-Ed column by David Brooks is an unfortunate recycling of a Republican press release from January 15 titled Stimulus Quick Facts. Instead of considering the whole picture, the per-job cost was calculated by dividing the sum of the stimulus package by the predicted number of jobs created. In doing so, the package has been reduced to being solely about creating jobs when it was designed to have numerous benefits beyond job creation, in areas ranging from health care and education to infrastructure and public safety.
Don’t Look Now, but Your Bias is Showing
Associated Press: Some Blacks Choose Inauguration Over Work, January 14, 2009
SpinSpotter’s take: “Proud Americans of all backgrounds missed work to watch the inauguration,” said Herman. “The reporter, though, seems to insinuate that African-Americans don’t deserve to take days-off like other hard-working people. And, the reporter actually uses the term ‘whooping it up’. If Rush Limbaugh said that there would be big trouble,” said Herman.
Just Plain Wrong
Fox News: Geithner Failed to Pay Taxes, Hired Housekeeper Without Proper Immigration Documents, January 13, 2009
SpinSpotter’s take: “Sometimes the need for a shorter headline leads to trouble.” This headline makes it sound as if Obama’s nominee for Treasury Secretary broke the law by hiring someone without proper documents. And while the article later explains that the housekeeper’s immigration status lapsed while under Geithner’s employ and that she was eventually granted a green card, there is no denying that the misleading headline hurt Geithner’s reputation.”
If you’re interested in trying to root out and highlight spin in the news, check out SpinSpotter. The team has created a very cool brower plug-in and toolbar called Spinoculars to help you view Spin Markers and make your own when you see the types of foolishness outlined above.