The Raw Data
Unspun and unbiased. These are the facts.
US ambassador to Mexico announces her resignation
The U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Roberta Jacobson, announced on Thursday that she would resign in May. Jacobson made the announcement in a letter sent to embassy staff. She did not give a reason for the resignation. Jacobson said she had “come to the difficult decision that it is the right time to move on to new challenges and adventures.” A replacement has not been publicly announced.
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The Knife’s analysis of how news outlets distort information. (This section may contain opinion.)
When U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson announced her plan to resign, this was the headline in The New York Times:
U.S. Ambassador to Mexico to Quit Amid Tense Relations Under Trump
Although it’s not directly stated, the juxtaposition here implies that Ambassador Jacobson is resigning because of “tense relations” and Trump.
Here’s AP’s headline:
US ambassador to Mexico to resign, amid strained relations
Similarly, this headline may imply the ambassador is resigning because of “strained relations” between the two countries.
Now, compare these headlines to Jacobson’s statement announcing her intention to resign (translated from Spanish):
“It’s been an honor and a pleasure to serve my country as Ambassador to Mexico. After 31 years of service for the U.S. government, I will be leaving at the beginning of May to pursue other opportunities. I do this knowing that U.S.-Mexican relations are strong and crucial, and that the incredible team from our mission in Mexico will make sure that this continues. At the moment, I don’t have information about who my successor will be. I carry Mexico in my soul and in my heart, and I will continue doing everything within my reach to live up to my words: Together we are stronger!”
There’s nothing in the statement that suggests she’s resigning because of Trump or “tense relations” between the U.S. and Mexico. On the contrary, she says relations are “strong and crucial” and the only reason she gives for leaving is that she’s pursuing “other opportunities.” It’s possible Trump and current relations are reasons for her decision, and the outlets may have information that points to this, but they don’t provide data to support their implications. Without such data, the coverage is conjecture and potentially misleading.
It may be true that there’s more disagreement than before between the U.S. and Mexico. Last week, the two countries reportedly canceled a plan for Mexican President Peña Nieto to visit the White House after Peña Nieto and Trump disagreed about the border wall on a phone call. But words such as “tense” and “strained” are subjective, dramatic and not well-defined. A more objective report would describe in fact-based terms what makes the relations “strained.” Also, these words may not be balanced because they don’t take into account positive aspects of relations (for instance, even if there are political disagreements, total trade between the U.S. and Mexico increased last year compared with the year before).
Putting a phrase like “tense relations” in a headline emphasizes it and may also encourage concern or even alarm among readers. The Washington Post’s headline is another example:
A Trump ally is likely to replace a career diplomat as U.S. ambassador, and Mexicans are worried
The word “worried” is subjective and emotional rather than data-based, and may directly foment concern.
The implications in the coverage promote the notion that the U.S. president is to blame for the ambassador’s resignation and for the reported disagreements between the two countries. While Trump certainly participates (he’s made proposals and comments the Mexican government has strongly disagreed with, e.g. the border wall and comments about Mexican “rapists”), there are other factors that also affect the current state of affairs. Suggesting Trump is the only one to blame may provide for drama and entertainment, but it’s myopic and doesn’t provide a comprehensive understanding of the situation. Ultimately, the blame and focus on “strained relations” could incite fear and uncertainty among citizens of both countries.
Is it fact or fiction? Which outlet presents the most spin?
See how the articles rate in spin, slant and logic when held against objective standards.
Total Integrity: 54%
Total Integrity: 51%
Total Integrity: 39%
Total Integrity: 38%