Dailies are reliably pro-illegals

Critics little cited; columnists of one mind about the issue

Dec. 3, 2006

by David Kopel

When you read the local news sections of the Rocky Mountain Newsor The Denver Postthese days, it's sometimes like reading an infomercial for illegal immigration.

I analyzed the staff-written news stories about illegal immigration which appeared in the Denver dailies from April 8 through April 15. I counted the number of paragraphs presenting the "pro" side for illegal aliens, and the number of paragraphs which presented the other side.

In the News, the ratio of pro-con paragraphs was about 4- to-1; in the Postit was 3-to-1.

The staff-written articles about legislation at the state Capitol or in Congress were, on the whole, balanced.

The main cause of imbalance was how both papers chose to cover the second round of illegal alien rallies. Although some articles included a few paragraphs quoting critics of illegal immigration, the pro-illegal alien agenda was presented not only by the advocates, but by the journalists themselves. One of many examples of the pro-illegal voice becoming the voice of the newspaper was the Newsheadline "Telluride must depend on immigrants" - as if American workers would shun Telluride even if employers paid better wages.

It's not inevitable that coverage of a demonstration must lead to overwhelmingly positive presentation of the demonstrators' cause. Contrast the balanced, tough coverage of the Fred Phelps demonstrations (evil people who were acting lawfully) with the glowing coverage of the illegal alien demonstrations (on behalf of lawbreakers, few of whom are evil).

While lavishing coverage on the illegal alien rallies, neither paper covered the Lafayette public forum on illegal immigration presented by the Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform, a group favoring stricter laws. The forum was hosted by Adam Schrager of 9News, featured a variety of viewpoints (such as a panelist from the left-wing Bell Policy Center), and was covered by the Boulder Daily Camera.Yet the only mention in the Denver dailies was a small preview paragraph that was part of a larger article in the Post.

The Newsproduced a major article about dozens of students walking out from a Lakewood middle school while tactfully omitting to state explicitly that the walkout apparently took place because the students' English-language skills were so deficient that they misunderstood something the principal said. (The Postcovered the issue briefly in two articles in English, plus one Spanish article on its Web site.) If a walkout led by the likes of Miss Emily Litella from Saturday Night Live("Never mind") merits so much coverage, a serious public forum deserves at least a little.

The above statistics about imbalanced perspective did not include the Newsand Postmetro columnists. Metro columnists are supposed to reflect the diversity of their newspaper's circulation area, but there is not much philosophical diversity.

The ideological spectrum runs from the angry left (Jim Spencer at the Post) to the sarcastic left (Mike Littwin at the News) to the earnest left (the Post'sDiane Carman). The only columnist who is not reliably PC is the Post'sDavid Harsanyi, who criticizes both sides of the immigration debate, but aims almost all of his criticism at restrictionists.

During the period I studied, readers had three columns from Littwin criticizing restrictions and lauding the protest marches; April 12 from the News'Bill Johnson (celebrating the marches, and criticizing the school flag controversy as the result of an overstrict immigration policy); April 13 from Tina Griego at the Newsextolling the new young Colorado leaders of the pro-illegal alien cause; and April 14 from Spencer criticizing the state legislature's crackdown on city "sanctuary" policies for illegal aliens.

In the non-metro columnist mix, there's the Post's Cindy Rodriguez, whose Scene columns sometimes read just like the metro columns she used to write. Each of her last five columns have presented her views in opposition to stricter immigration law enforcement.

Postbusiness columnist Al Lewis lauded a hard-working illegal alien in one column; a few days before, he wrote a neutral description of the proposed May 1 work boycott.

All of the columnists brought their own strengths - some telling interesting stories of individuals, others analyzing politics, and others sharing their emotions. Yet the whole was less than the sum of the parts, because every column was premised on the monotonous theme that the only serious problem with Colorado having hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens is that they are illegal, and the solution is to grant them amnesty.

A paper that had some actual diversity among its metro columnists might have also told the stories of citizen construction workers whose wages are being devastated by competition from illegal aliens, or of public school teachers who have seen their own schools collapse academically under the burden of hundreds of illegal students crowding the classrooms, many coming from families that offer little or no support for the importance of education.

While both papers provide diverse opinions on their opinion sections, you might find more diversity of opinion about illegal aliens at a Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform forum than in reading the metro columnists.


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