I haven’t watched the ABC Primetime special yet but I did read ABC’s Web summary and I find it less biased than I feared.
Because of the way human memory and cognition work, the most important parts of any text news story are the headline, the first paragraph and the last paragraph. Indeed one of the cannons of print journalism is that you can summarize a story with just these three parts.
So let’s try that with this story:
President Obama Defends Right to Choose Best Care
President Obama struggled to explain today whether his health care reform proposals would force normal Americans to make sacrifices that wealthier, more powerful people — like the president himself — wouldn’t face.
“If the American people get behind this, this is going to happen,” the president said.
The headline is positive towards Obama. It says that Obama “defends the right to choose” which is obviously a positive statement. A more neutral headline would be something like, “Obama explained his ideas for health care reform.”
The first paragraph is negative in saying that Obama “struggled” and pointing out that he is a rich and powerful person who will never have to rely on the politically-managed health-care that he advocates for other people.
The last paragraph is positive towards Obama because it gives him the final word and does so in a quote.
So the summarized story that people will take away reads, “Obama defended people’s right to choose the best care, but he struggled to explain how that would work. The plan is going to happen.”
I was surprised by the opening paragraph. Given my dim view of ABC’s built-in bias, I can only assume that Obama really did struggle. Even so, ABC spun the story to Obama’s favor.