The Raw Data
Unspun and unbiased. These are the facts.
Justice Department sues California over state laws affecting immigration enforcement
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) sued California, its governor and attorney general over three state laws that the department says affect enforcement of federal immigration laws. The lawsuit alleges that the state laws, passed last year, are unconstitutional and have “the purpose and effect of making it more difficult for federal immigration officers to carry out their responsibilities.” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the laws were “fully constitutional.”
Read the full Raw Data here.
The Knife’s analysis of how news outlets distort information. (This section may contain opinion.)
In its purest form, the justice system is one of humanity’s greatest, most noble attributes. In principle, when a suit is filed, a concerted effort ensues to resolve a dispute between two or more parties, with the goal of affording not just the parties involved, but all of society, precedents and just consequences. Except that isn’t usually the media’s angle on lawsuits — at least not the Justice Department’s suit against the State of California, which the media dramatized with fighting words.
Spin is one of the areas of distortion we analyze — the term stands for dramatic, sensational, imprecise or subjective language that conflates fact with fiction. What’s noteworthy about the coverage of this story is that the statements from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and California officials were already spun. They used terms such as “war,” “radical extremists,” “eviscerating” and even a supposed “reign of terror.”
The outlets we analyzed added their own spin. In all, the most spun coverage we looked at was CNN’s and the least was the Los Angeles Times’, and they were 81 and 59 percent spun, respectively. Our ratings take into account each outlet’s own dramatic language, as well as the spin used by the people they cited.
When you consider that most spin is opinion-based, it’s sobering to think that, on average, more than 60 percent of each story was spun. Isn’t the news supposed to report the facts?
The spin also had a running theme — the language was nuanced with meanings of conflict or aggression. Here’s a quick sample from each outlet we analyzed, but do check our Top Spin Words for more.
- Los Angeles Times: warlike rhetoric, long been at odds, battle, controversial, outraged, vowed to fight, charged, flash point, preposterous, sharply, clash, took shots.
- Fox News: unloads on, tore into, pushed back, crackdown, happy to fight, lashed out, blasted.
- The Washington Post: excoriated, took particular aim, remarkable escalation, sharpen a burgeoning feud, girded for battle, fiery, frequently sparred, skirmishes, ire, showdown.
- CNN: war, attacking, tough rhetoric, harsh words, an aggressive escalation, strongly pushed back.
The media may not be able to change the fact that politicians use dramatic, sometimes disparaging language. Yet journalists don’t have to respond in kind or, as happened with this coverage, outdo politicians at spinning the information. News reporting can serve the public by holding politicians accountable, but it’s harder to do that if the media is playing the same game. Outlets can get out of that conundrum by dropping the spin and other distortions, and sticking to the facts.
“But in the last month, this battle has reached a fever pitch.”
In the last month, Trump criticized the California police handling of street gangs and the state’s taxation, and said, “I mean, frankly, if I wanted to pull our people from California, you would have a crime mess [there] like you’ve never seen.” The White House said the DOJ was reviewing a decision by Oakland’s mayor to notify constituents of an ICE raid. The DOJ sued California over three state laws the department says affect enforcement of federal immigration laws. State officials criticized the lawsuit.
Sessions’ “comments also sharpen a burgeoning feud between the U.S. government and its most populous state.”
In his Sacramento speech, Sessions mentioned the DOJ’s lawsuit against California and criticized some state officials. California is the most populous state.
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions took his war against sanctuary cities to California on Wednesday, announcing a federal lawsuit against the state …”
The DOJ announced its lawsuit against California on Tuesday. Sessions mentioned the suit in his Sacramento speech Wednesday.
See how the articles rate in spin, slant and logic when held against objective standards.
Total Integrity: 40%
Total Integrity: 35%
Total Integrity: 26%
Total Integrity: 21%