Correspon-don’t? Controversy from WHCD receives varying news coverage
After the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, journalists and politicians alike took sides on the jokes performed by comedian Michelle Wolf. Wolf’s scathing jokes about the Trump administration and press secretary Sarah Sanders garnered praise and criticism alike. Even news organizations, supposed to remain unbiased, could be seen taking a side. Specifically, we can look at two examples: The Washington Examiner and Politico. Even though both articles have biases, as the Examiner leans right and Politico leans left, the Politico article is a better example of even and fair reporting and writing.
In the Politico article, written by Brent D. Griffiths and Michael Calderone, we can see the balance present in the stacking. First quoted is NBC White House Correspondent Kelly O’Donnell. In a tweet, O’Donnell said, “The spirit of the event had always been jokes that singe but don’t burn,” going on to thank the press secretary for attending the dinner. This quote is balanced in multiple ways; support for Wolf has mainly come from liberal democrats, and the criticism from an NBC employee not only provides a counter to that, but critiques Wolf in a way that is neither mean nor scathing. Instead, it is a gentle reminder of the purpose of the dinner. When we compare this to the direct insults of the Examiner article, it becomes increasingly clear what difference Politico’s choice of quotes made. The article then goes on to examine responses from other journalists, politicians, and the President himself, as well as late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel. Throughout the article, we see a balance of agreements, disagreements, and neutral opinions. The only source who did not comment directly was Wolf herself, but that could almost be considered a good thing. Instead of focusing on Wolf, possibly turning the article into an attack against her, the article talks about the history and meaning of the dinner and how Wolf feeds into that legacy. Granted, the article and Politico as a whole do lean slightly left, but overall, the article is very fair. It never takes a side, diction remains neutral throughout the piece, and sources of all viewpoints are given a platform to speak.
Moving on to the Washington Examiner article, we can see right away which way the writer, Josh Siegal, leaned on the issue. First, in the headline, we see immediate bias: “Washington in uproar over ‘disgusting’ White House Correspondents’ dinner comedy routine.” Several words in this headline lead the audience to immediately make a conclusion about the article and the people it talks about. Words like “uproar” and “disgusting” tell us right away that this is an event to be enraged about. Later in the article, the routine by Wolf is referred to as “unnecessarily cruel,” a “disgrace,” and, once more, “disgusting.” The only critic of Trump or conservatives in the article comes from Charlie Sykes, a conservative political commentator, and even he says that he thinks Wolf was out of line. Never does Wolf get the chance to defend herself, and every joke quoted in the article aims to defame her further. Jokes about abortion and the press secretary’s appearance appear first and most often. This article, while factual, has a clear agenda; to make Wolf out to be a villain and turn readers against her.
Granted, both articles are biased, as all writing will be, but the main difference is the goal of the articles. Politico, while left-leaning, gives readers all the facts and allows them to make their own judgements about Wolf and the dinner. The Examiner, one the other hand, chooses facts and quotes strategically to present Wolf and those who have spoken out in support of her as villians and bullies. It is not the responsibility of a news organization to tell their readers how to think. It is their responsibility to provide a balanced and fair view of events, and the Washington Examiner article fails to fulfill that responsibility.