The Nation published a story yesterday by Ari Berman with the headline “Wisconsin’s Voter-ID Law Suppressed 200,000 Votes in 2016 (Trump Won by 22,478).” Here’s a definitive statement that 200,000 votes were in fact suppressed by Wisconsin’s Voter-ID law. And a blunt inference that, but for this suppression, Trump would not have won in Wisconsin. The problem with Mr. Berman’s headline is simple. It is not supported by the facts. It is yet another example of a media outlet misleading its readers. And an example of a failure of a published reporter to demand of himself accuracy in his reporting. Shame, shame, shame.
Journalists Should Report the Facts – Accurately
We have the old-fashioned view that the media is in a position of trust. A sacred trust. Readers generally lack the time and the resources (even in today’s age) to research reported facts. Readers depend on their journalists for accuracy. They demand integrity.
But the media violates that trust when it intentionally misleads. The role of journalists is simple – report the facts. Journalists should not “color” facts or editorialize, unless they announce their intentions in advance. Journalists should maintain a strict dedication to accuracy. Their only skin-in-the-game is a tireless dedication to truth. And a fealty to objectivity.
A Violation of Trust – Berman Failed to Report a Fact Fundamental to His Story
Mr. Berman’s Wisconsin’s Voter-ID Law article relied entirely on a “new study” by Priorities USA. In fairness to Mr. Berman, he noted that Priorities USA is a “progressive advocacy group and Super PAC that supported Clinton in 2016 and Barack Obama in 2012.” Certainly, not an independent organization here. However, Mr. Berman went no further. He left it to the reader to draw any inference whether Priorities USA could provide an objective analysis. But we’ll put that one aside.
Mr. Berman recited a litany of claims from the Priorities USA report to support his conclusion embodied in the quoted story headline. We will not debate the validity of, or possible flaws within, the Priorities USA analysis. The important point is simply this.
Even Priorities USA acknowledged that its “conclusion” of a lost 200,000 voters was hypothetical. There was no evidence that 200,000 voters were actually lost. In fact, they stated that the 200,000 voters claim was just “theoretical.” How can that be squared with Mr. Berman’s bold statement that, in fact, 200,000 votes were suppressed in Wisconsin?
Well, it can’t be. And Mr. Berman would be left with a much-less appealing article to write if limited to Priorities USA’s “theoretical” conclusion.
Wisconsin’s Voter-ID Law – The Truth, Please
So what should Mr. Berman’s headline have been? How about this: “Wisconsin’s Voter-ID Law May Have Suppressed 200,000 Votes in 2016.” Seems like a pretty easy fix. And the accurate reporting of the Priorities USA analysis that Mr. Berman missed.