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The Grand Rapids Press’s Birthday Gift to Justin Amash: A Free Political Ad

April 11, 2011

Sunday’s edition of the Grand Rapids Press featured a big birthday present for Justin Amash: an advertisement for Amash’s birthday-themed money-raising campaign, thinly disguised as an article.

The piece, written by Jeff Cranson, describes how Amash is asking each of his followers for $31 on his 31st birthday this April, so he can continue “fighting for you.”

The so-called “money bomb,” which Amash describes as his birthday wish, is featured on the freshman Representative’s Facebook page. There, Amash elaborates on why he feels he needs extra cash this soon, and so badly: the government is out of control, exhibiting a “reckless disregard for the wise limits on government that our Founders placed in the Constitution.” Amash then reports in a vague statement that he needs more money to “continue [my] efforts on behalf of liberty.”

The $31 is just a gimmick donation, however; he’s willing to take more. A lot more—a maximum gift of $2,500 is flagged for Facebook readers’ attention.

The Press not only reports this as if it were news and worthy of reader attention—in the print version, it is given front-page placement in the Region section. And the online feature obligingly includes a link directly to the site where you can make your donation. The piece falls under the banner of “Polpourri,” which are quick news bites about politics in Michigan. Although some pieces for this section are written like commentaries, this one is not. In the online version, the article is combined with a paragraph about Bill Huizenga and a Tea Party event, but features a large photo of Amash supporters with a caption about his “money bomb” wish.

According to Professor David Niven of Florida Atlantic University, “advertising bias” in news reports like this one, that violates the objectivity of journalism, result in “news stories” that are tantamount to paid political ads. This type of writing, along with other types of media bias, has an agenda so transparent that it has caused Americans to distrust newspaper reporters in the United States more than people in any other profession except used car salesmen, insurance salesmen, and advertising copywriters.

Niven goes on to state that the consequences of this distrust has “drawn down the reservoir of support to a level that it is dangerous to itself and democratic society.” Without actual objective facts, presented without a slant toward a particular political agenda in stories created like news reports, truth becomes obscured by opinion to the point that some people are unable to distinguish one from another. (For proof of this, just read MLive’s comments on any Michigan news story.)

It seems that this Press’s gift to us this Sunday is an outstanding example of why Americans can no longer trust what they read in newspapers.



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