The big story of this week is apparently Indiana’s effort to pass a law modeled on the national Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Supporters of the law complain that news coverage has been biased and dishonest. They have a point, if the following is any indication.
CBS Cleveland has a story on its website about an Indiana restaurant, Memories Pizza in Walkerton. The headline reads: “Indiana Pizza Shop: We Won’t Serve Gays.” Then, the first paragraph reads: “An Indiana pizza shop may be the first to publicly say it will not serve gay and lesbian customers.” The impression created by the headline and the opening sentence–or rather, the assertion made by them–is that this restaurant intends to engage in blanket discrimination against gays and lesbians.
But if you read on, you find that this is not in fact the case, but that the owners of the establishment just don’t want to be conscripted into serving at a same-sex marriage, since they don’t believe in such a thing. Says the owner: “If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no. We are a Christian establishment.”Lenin Reading Pravda
Then, if you read to the very last paragraph of the story, you find that the information provided actually contradicts the characterization made by CBS Cleveland in the headline and the first sentence: “Despite their opposition to gay marriages, the O’Connor family [the owners of the pizza place] promises that if a gay couple of a couple belonging to another religion come in to the restaurant to eat, they would not be turned away.”
So, it turns out, the owners have not really said, “We won’t serve gays.”
The whole story provides all the information you need to know the truth of the matter, yet the headline and first sentence are framed in such a way as to create an impression that is different from the truth. If this is not dishonest journalism, then what is?
Note: I have posted an update here, because CBS Cleveland changed the headline and first sentence.