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Cranky Uncle Lou Stacks the Deck

Oct. 27 2008, Published 7:07 a.m. ET

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Only Lou Dobbs could take us this far through the journalistic rabbit hole: The noted fathead aired a segment on his CNN show last month that blasted the Washington Post for being biased in its coverage of immigration because—now read carefully—Post chairman Donald Graham is a trustee of a charitable foundation that gave money to a Maryland immigrant rights group. And that group published a pamphlet once that advised people on how to avoid being deported. Precisely how that logic chain is supposed to implicate the reporters and editors who actually cover immigration for the Post was left unclear in correspondent Linda Sylvester's report. Presumably the accusation is that Washington Post reporters manipulate the facts to fit a predetermined agenda.

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So when Sylvester and her producer set out to find a talking head for the Post segment on Dobbs's show, they naturally sought out a neutral, unbiased journalism expert who could offer unvarnished analysis as to whether Graham's extracurricular charitable activities constituted a bias, right? Wrong.

"They called and said, 'We need an expert to criticize the Washington Post's coverage of immigration based on the fact that ... a foundation that Donald Graham is involved with gave a grant to a group ... that put out a brochure ... that, among other things, advised immigrants on how to deal with law enforcement'" says Mark Feldstein, a George Washington University professor who was contacted by a producer for Dobbs's show. "I thought, 'Wow, you're really reaching.' The first thing I teach my students is, you interview people to see what they think. You don't coach them to say what you want them to say."

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In other words, Dobbs set out to produce a segment on bias in the media by seeking out an "independent expert" who would say precisely what he wanted them to say: That there's a bias in the media.



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