Another reason the right hates the media

In a Chicago Tribune story, "Immigration grabs Capitol Hill spotlight," Joseph Tanfani writes about the Center for Immigration Studies, NumbersUSA and the Federation for American Immigration Reform:

With [attorney general nominee Jeff] Sessions  posed to be an influential voice on immigration policy in the Trump administration, these formerly fringe groups have their best chance yet to see Washington policy turn decisively in their direction. [Emphasis added.]

Fringe? I'm not here to defend their positions, but I'm here to object on journalistic principles to the use of the descriptive "fringe." Is it fringe to argue that people who have entered America illegally should be deported? Or that they should not have been allowed in in the first place? Is it not legitimate to argue about what level of legal immigration should be allowed? (Can anyone on either say exactly how many legal immigrants are allowed into America, and on what basis? The nation's immigration laws are nearly incomprehensible.)

These are legitimate policy issues that ought not be discredited by labelling them "fringe." If so, America's Voice that "argues for a path to citizenship for immigrants here illegally" (as Tanfani described the group) also must be labeled "fringe."

Calling someone "fringe" is not the worst thing in the world. But it carries a negative connotation that does not belong in an "objective" news story. As someone who has spent a long career working for the Chicago Daily News, Sun-Times and Tribune, I worry about my profession: Its sloppy use of words and its failure to recognize how it damages its own credibility.

(I tried to link to Tanfani's story, but I couldn't find it on the Tribune's website. I'm quoting from a front-page story in the print edition this morning.)


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  • fb_avatar

    Mainstream media bias is so pervasive and subtle -- a word like "fringe" here, or "denier" there -- that the partiality passes unnoticed by the reader, and is incorporated into the prevailing national narrative. Indeed, Tanfani himself well not be aware of his biased vocabulary. The organizations he cites favor stricter enforcement of immigration laws. What else would a reporter call them except "fringe"?

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    "Fringe" isn't accurate. It also doesn't belong in the news section. Unless the context was an editorial, it was bad journalism because it was inaccurate and biased.

  • "FAIR, CIS and NumbersUSA are all part of a network of restrictionist organizations conceived and created by John Tanton, the "puppeteer" of the nativist movement and a man with deep racist roots ... CIS was conceived by Tanton and began life as a program of FAIR. CIS presents itself as a scholarly think tank that produces serious immigration studies meant to serve "the broad national interest." But the reality is that CIS has never found any aspect of immigration that it liked, and it has frequently manipulated data to achieve the results it seeks." [Southern Poverty Law Center]

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Southern Poverty Law Center? Itself a fringe operation.

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