Two emotionally charged issues were before Congress on Thursday — taxes and gays in the military. Articles about both were prominently played on Friday’s front page. Heated debates about each have played out in Congress, so it should come as no surprise that readers have strong feelings on the subjects as well.
The headlines on each of these articles came under fire from a reader who thought it was unfair. But the readers came at the argument from different sides of the political aisle.
The top headline on the page, “House in open revolt on tax cuts,” was criticized by Paul Goldman of Porter Ranch.
“What tax cuts are you referring to?” he asked. “Your headline should read, ‘House Democrats in open revolt against Republicans who don’t want a tax hike,’ but that doesn’t fit in with your left-wing agenda. What the Republicans are trying to do is prevent a new tax HIKE from going into effect.”
The other headline, “Senate blocks repeal of ‘don’t ask,’ ” was disputed by Henry Hespenheide of Hermosa Beach.
“The Senate voted in favor of repeal of ‘don’t ask,’ 57-40,” he said. “Republican senators prevented a vote on the bill by filibuster. Failure of repeal was not due to the Senate as a whole, but to a minority group of Republican senators obsessed with further enriching the already-very-rich. Please give responsibility where responsibility is due.”
On this front page, is bias simply in the eye of the beholder?
“Today’s A1 is a great illustration of our challenges in trying to be neutral,” said Assistant Managing Editor Henry Fuhrmann, who oversees the headline writers on the copy desk.
Fuhrmann and Assistant Managing Editor Joe Eckdahl, who oversees the front page, agreed that the headlines reflected the stories, which both editors thought to be accurate.
“We have been referring to the proposal that has the House up in arms as a ‘tax-cut deal’ simply because at issue is a bill that extends Bush-era tax cuts,” Eckdahl said. “True, allowing the legislation to expire would result in what amounts to tax hikes, but it’s tax cuts that we’re talking about.”
On the “don’t ask, don’t tell” article, Eckdahl said, “the vote was a procedural one, an action that required 60 votes to advance the bill to a final vote. The motion was indeed favored by senators 57-40, but the result is the bill was ‘blocked’ from moving ahead.”
Eckdahl saw no bias in the language, he said, “though there appear to be strong opinions one way or the other in what readers bring to that language.”
This column was originally published on LATimes.com on Dec. 20, 1010.