CBS 58 Spins Immigration Debate

CBS 58 |  5-9-2017


On May 9, 2017, CBS 58 (WDJT – Milwaukee) featured a “special report” during its 10 pm newscast titled: “Impact of Immigrant Labor in Wisconsin.”

The report focused on a Southeast Wisconsin dairy farm whose workforce consisted of all illegal immigrants.

One might think the reporter would call into question the legitimacy of operating a business in blatant violation of the law; however, as one would suspect, the reporter took a different angle. First, watch the report (or read the transcript):

Can you spot the bias?  Oh . . . where to begin.

First, CBS 58 commits bias by spin. Throughout the story, the reporter confuses the term “immigrant labor” with “illegal immigrant labor.” There is an absolute distinction, which is often glossed over, demeaning those individuals who came to this country through lawful means by lumping them together with those who chose to defy immigration law and come here through illegal means.

We will also note that where the distinction is made by the reporter, she chooses to refrain from using the term “illegal” immigrant, and instead, uses the cozier term, “undocumented worker.” This minimizes the undeniable reality that a crime has been committed in coming into this country through unlawful means.

Next, CBS 58 commits bias by context. The reporter (along with the man being interviewed) portray an image that all illegal immigrants are being hunted down or are at significant risk for immediate deportation. When put in the proper context, the Trump administration has, time and again stated that its priority, as it relates to deportation, is to target illegal immigrants who have a criminal history in this country.

Further, CBS 58 commits bias by source selection. Notice, nowhere in this story is a counterpoint provided.

Lastly, CBS 58 generally commits bias by policy endorsement. Here, the crux of the story is: “illegal immigrants are important to dairy farms in Wisconsin, so we should turn a blind eye and just allow illegal immigrants to be here.”

Though utopian in thought, this premise ignores a very basic notion: this country has immigration laws, has the right to enforce its immigration laws, and has the right to not have its immigration laws violated at will (whether by employees or employers).

By portraying illegal immigrant workers as sympathetic victims of draconian laws that should be disregarded in order to permit these workers to exist without fear, CBS 58 is specifically endorsing an anti-immigration enforcement policy. This is bias, as it is the media’s role to report the facts, not espouse policy recommendations.

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