(Jan. 17) CNN’s Erin Burnett provided a necessary corrective last week on the partisan dispute about voting laws. She also pointed, perhaps unintentionally, at a larger question of journalistic ethics.

Burnett, almost alone among reporters on “establishment media” outlets, actually checked the facts and context for President Joe Biden’s demagogic speech last week in Georgia about voting laws. She pushed back on the habit of Biden and the media of “present[ing] voting rights as a morally right or morally decrepit choice, that there’s a right and there’s a wrong.” Instead, as Burnett noted in a two-minute monologue, the Georgia voting law Biden portrayed as racist voter suppression actually makes it easier to vote in numerous ways than it is in liberal New York.

This ground has been well-trodden in conservative media, but it’s almost never on liberal networks or in big print newspapers apart from the Wall Street Journal. Unlike Burnett, many reporters invariably push a narrative with Biden in the white hat and the whole Republican Party as racist black hats barely this side of the Ku Klux Klan. Again, this comes not just from people identified as opinion journalists but also supposedly “straight news” reporters. Witness CNN’s lead White House reporter Stephen Collinson, who in a piece at least labeled “analysis,” an odd thing for a straight news guy, described a “big current conservative power play — a nationwide effort by GOP-run states to make it harder to cast ballots and easier to steal elections.”

Yes, “steal.”

This was part of a larger rant in which Collinson said the Supreme Court has “gutted” voting protections for racial minorities in a “right-wing victory over democratic values,” while conservatives generally want to use “power to further rupture the traditions of democracy.” Republicans, according to a Collinson subheadline, “are more ruthless than Democrats,” and their “hypocrisy is also glaring.”

Yet CNN presents this man, who has publicly and overwhelmingly chosen a political side, as if he is a neutral reporter on the White House beat…. [The full column is at this link.]


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