Is this headline biased?

This is a tricky thread because it has a lot of potential to devolve into a Pit-suitable conversation. However, I hope we can keep this limited strictly to a discussion about whether or not the headline is biased, not whether CNN is biased, who they’re biased for, whether they kill small animals and employ small children, etc. It also shouldn’t disintegrate into a discussion about whether the statement is or is not accurate, or whether any of the candidates dance on the graves of saints or traffic sheep for sex.

Here’s the headline:

Obama touts ideas, Clinton pushes results

It’s not a quote, it’s just the headline for the article summarizing last night’s debate.

It strikes me as ovewhelmingly uneven. In fact, it sounds exactly like what Sen. Clinton says in her speeches.

So the question to you is: do you find the headline to be biased?

I think it’s more like over-reductive. It does sound like what Clinton has said, and my opinion is the press usually does lean toward her version of events. But they’re trying to sum up each candidate in his/her own word, and it just makes for a confused headline.

It seems a pretty straightforward statement of one popular perception of the candidates: Obama is inexperienced but has a lot of (presumably new) ideas, Mrs. Clinton has greater experience, presumably by adding her stint as First Lady to her Congressional career. I see no particular bias there, and I doubt much thought went into it other than an editor trying to come up with something pithy and with some cadence to it.

How about the current Yahoo! News headline on the same subject? Is that maybe more biased than CNN’s? Again, I say no.

It does sound uneven, but not necessarily in a certain direction. Both “tout” and “push” have negative connotations, although the former is probably less well known by the hoi polloi.

Now I can’t stop hearing:

I guess to me, “ideas” sounds less positive than “results”; ideas are nothing without results, and results are usually the product of ideas. Maybe that’s just my own personal bias.

I’m on the other side of the world and not a US voter, so this may count for little (though I’m also more in favour of Obama):


I don’t think it’s biased.

By itself, no, that is not biased. However, if it does not accurately sum up the content of what each candidate stressed (if Obama spent his time saying “here are the 17 bills I passed” and Clinton spent her time saying “here are my six cool plans for fixing the economy”) then it would be wrong.

Before I got to the end of the OP, I thought your impression was that it was biased toward Obama. IMHO “tout” just sounds more effortless than “push”, it makes it seem like Clinton has to work harder to get her message out.

Not that I consider myself a master of the English language or anything, this was just my first impression.

As a guy who’s written headlines for a living, I’ll weigh in for “no.”

A headline like that is difficult to write. You can’t quote either of them because there’s not enough room to quote both of them. You shouldn’t say “Candidates square off in debate” (though many places do), because it doesn’t tell you much – it’s like “City Council meets” or “Police arrest man” – makes you say, “Well, duh.”

You’re basically limited to summing up their positions in a word or two, and hopefully you can make them sound close to balanced. Another way to do it, if each of them concentrated on a pet issue, might be something like “Clinton touts health care, Obama talks economy in debate” Still not great, but also unbiased.

Reputable news organizations have been walking a tightrope for the past few months when it comes to things like this, and it won’t end until November.