Leaving out certain details

The trouble with truth and journalism is not that the media regularly publishes falsities. It’s that it usually omits important information or emphasizes certain facts over others.

Here’s an example: On August 17, 2009, the Vancouver Sun publishes an article with the headline, “Liberals funded by business, NDP by unions“. On the face of it, it would appear there is equivalence: business and unions support their respective parties to the same degree. But, of course, that’s not really true. The sub-heading provides a bit more detail when it reads, “Businesses donated 70 per cent of Liberal funds for 2009 election; unions gave 40 per cent of NDP revenue”. At least here we begin to see that there is no equivalence; Gordon Campbell’s Liberals are more beholden to corporations than the NDP are beholden to unions. Too bad the headlines and sub-headings aren’t switched.

Much more problematic is what is left out completely. The other way of understanding things would be to compare the absolute amount that the business sector gave to the Liberals, as compared to the absolute amount the unions gave to the NDP (in this case, between Jan. 1 and the May election). However, for some strange reason, those important numbers aren’t in the news story. By my calculations – using all of the raw data provided by the article – the NDP received $2.16 million from the unions, while the Liberals received $6.65 million from the corporations. That means the Liberal Party received over 3 times more money from corporate BC as the NDP received from the unions. Such an omission might appear subtle, but it certainly works to reduce the significant differences that the headline ignores. And so much for equivalence.

Posted by Colin Welch at 2:29 PM
Edited on: Thursday, August 27, 2009 12:27 PM
Categories: BC Politics, Language, The Media


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