Mainstream media outlets across the country have been under scrutiny in recent years for perceived bias against conservatives, and Alabama based-news media is no exception.
While most local coverage is handled with proper professionalism and flies under the radar, brazen instances of bias in political coverage gives legacy outlets across the state a black eye.
Thursday and Friday alone, some of Alabama’s most recognizable mainstream outlets handled two separate situations with what was either extreme incompetence or left-leaning, politically motivated slant.
First, look at the coverage against Republican Attorney General Steve Marshall.
For months, opponents of Marshall have complained about donations he has received from the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA). And, for months, the media has written about the complaints as they popped up, even though no new information has emerged and no adjudicating body has found Marshall to be in violation of any law.
Thursday, another such complaint emerged, this time from two run-of-the-mill lawyers in Montgomery. For some reason, this was treated as news, even though there was nothing new of substance to report. But that kind of questionable story selection, while lesser bias in itself, is not the real issue at play.
The Associated Press, AL(dot)com and the Montgomery Advertiser all wrote about the duo attacking Marshall, without mentioning that Melissa Isaak, one of the two lawyers, has donated to Joseph Siegelman four times this election cycle.
Further than this blaring omission, which bars readers from making an informed decision about the allegations, the Advertiser asserts that Isaak is “a Republican” and the AP even titles her “conservative attorney Melissa Isaak.” These claims do not seem to hold much weight when coupled with the fact she was first donating to Siegelman when there was still a crowded Republican primary underway.
So, this is not just a case of Isaak disliking Marshall. She has been all-in for the Democrat against the Republican field since at least April. Unfortunately, it seems that much of the media has been, too.
The next example comes exclusively courtesy of the sports and liberal political blog run by the Alabama Media Group. In an op-ed published by AL(dot)com on Friday, longtime leftwing, environmental activist Joyce Lanning attacked the Republican-controlled Public Service Commission (PSC). However, once again, the media outlet made a massive omission that left the reader without an opportunity to have all of the relevant facts.
Most succinctly, Lanning is currently associated with the Alabama Environmental Council. At the very least, AL(dot)com should have added this disclaimer. One could expect the outlet to publish the left-leaning op-ed, as devoid of fact as it is. People are generally aware of the publication’s bias and can account for their slanted story and op-ed selection in their thought process. Yet, leaving out crucial facts is another ballgame.
Lanning has a history of irrational, anti-Alabama hatred of the state’s energy sector and the PSC, which is currently led by President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, along with Commissioners Chip Beeker and Jeremy Oden.
Just look back to 2013, when Lanning’s charade was undermined by her own words, when she complained about the commission lowering utility rates. This is not an individual looking out for the consumer. This is a puppet of out-of-state, liberal organizations like the AARP, who infamously led the charge against Alabama jobs that year.
Also of relevance to the current election cycle, Lanning in 2013 officially represented the League of Women Voters, which has been hailed recently as a supposedly objective, nonpartisan political group by these same mainstream outlets (as the outlets shilled against Governor Kay Ivey).
Lanning’s op-ed itself does not pass the smell test. The PSC, under Cavanaugh’s leadership, has been at the forefront of positive changes in the past eight years, from passing a strict ethics package before the legislature undertook one to rightsizing the agency without any type of outside mandate. Plus, the commission has irrefutably been looking out for Alabama jobs and ratepayers. Just this past year, the PSC reduced rates for Alabama Power and Spire Alabama customers. And over the past several years, the commissioners were hailed as national leaders in the fight against costly Obama-era environmental mandates meant to cripple the coal industry and raise energy costs through the roof.
Should AL(dot)com be expected to admit all of that when publishing Lanning’s propaganda? Do they need to include her Democratic donation history (to President Obama, Doug Jones, etc)? Of course not. But they absolutely, at a bare minimum, should have the journalistic integrity to include a basic disclaimer on the op-ed.
With that disclaimer, readers could infer Lanning’s bias and agenda. Without it, readers can only infer AL(dot)com’s bias and agenda.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn