Local Media Blacks Out Justice Ginsburg Comments

Media Blackout  |  7-11-2016


Liberal US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made national headlines the week of July 11th when she made public statements calling Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump a “faker” and someone who “really has an ego”.

After public criticism from both Republican and Democrat lawmakers and commentators, Justice Ginsburg then issued a retraction of sorts.

It is nearly unprecedented in modern time for a sitting US Supreme Court justice to comment publicly about a federal election.

Let alone specifically target a presidential candidate for criticism, as the Supreme Court is in the position of potentially having to decide the outcome of a presidential election (a la Bush v. Gore in 2000).  

There can be no doubt that Ginsburg’s original criticisms of Trump, and subsequent retraction thereof, were newsworthy.  This story was covered ad nauseum by national news outlets.  

Nonetheless, for those in Northeast Wisconsin getting their news from the 10 pm television newscasts of WFRV, WLUK, WBAY, or WGBA, one would not have heard about this incident, as none of these stations aired any mention of what transpired.

This blackout is an example of bias by story selection: Intentionally choosing not to cover a story that may put one side (here, focusing on a liberal icon) in a negative light.

The bias is compounded, though, by the fact that all four local news affiliates featured coverage concerning Donald Trump’s criticisms of the federal judge presiding over a lawsuit to which he was a party.

Certainly, Trump’s criticisms were newsworthy, and warranted coverage. With that said, it is not uncommon for litigants to complain about judges; it is uncommon for judges (especially Supreme Court justices) to publicly insult potential litigants, even more so if they are running for the highest office in the land.

Our point is simply that if the media is going to feature coverage of one story, then coverage of the other side is appropriate.

Here are the links featuring the initial report of Justice Ginsburg’s comments and her subsequent “retraction”.

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