Two media outlets, two headlines

The backstory: James Holkeboer, 68, a Michigan election worker, was arrested and “charged with two felonies after allegedly inserting a flash drive into a computer containing confidential voter registration data” during the August 2, 2022, primary, according to Reuters (story here).

  • Headline from Raw Story, a left-leaning news site: “‘Incredibly alarming’: Republican poll worker in Michigan charged with tampering with voting equipment.”
  • Headline from Fox17, a Fox affiliate, which is right-leaning: “Election worker charged with falsifying records wanted to check for inconsistencies.”

Most people scan the news, and headlines are designed to “hook” them into reading a story, so you want your headline to be eye-catching. I know about this because I took journalism classes in college and worked for newspapers.

You can read Raw Story‘s reporting here and Fox17‘s reporting here. The tone and tenor of their reporting differs, too, even though the basic facts they report do not.

Media bias is real, but isn’t necessarily politically-motivated, even when it appears to be. News is a business, needs an audience to make money, and editors aim to attract an audience. (If nothing else works, report lurid crimes, because there’s always an audience for that.)

By the way, the movie The Shipping News is as good a caricature of the news business as there is. Watching it won’t make you a journalist, but watch it anyway for entertainment.

So, back to Mr. Holkeboer. He is, of course, a bit player in a story much larger than him. Cynical GOP leaders falsely tell their followers elections are dishonest, and urge them to sign up for election work to find imaginary fraud. He was fooled into going on a snipe hunt.

He’s mostly guilty of being gullible. To keep their audiences happy, Raw Story feeds him to the wolves, while Fox17 suggests he’s knight in shining armor riding to the rescue. It’s just business.

But to Holkeboer, sitting in a courtroom (photo below), it probably feels personal.

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