Spinning the News

A headline in Roll Call, the newspaper and website that has been “the source for news on Capitol Hill since 1955,” over an article by long-time journalist and editor David Hawkings, reads

D.C. Could Take Lessons From Hartford on Gun Control Deal

What’s the lesson? That when legislators buckle down and work hard, they can pass “the strongest gun control law in the nation.”

This reflects two articles of faith that seem to be devoutly held by mainstream journalists:

1. Passing laws is good. Passing more laws is better. The purpose of a legislative body is to pass laws.

2. Gun control is good.

On the first point, just consider the large number of stories, especially this past December and January, on “the least productive Congress in history.” The assumption is that “productivity” for Congress is passing laws—laws that in most cases will raise taxes, raise spending, increase regulation, and/or intrude the federal government into more aspects of our lives. 

As for gun control, the enthusiasm of the national media for such measures is pretty obvious. I was struck by NPR’s hourly news roundup last week, which began: 

More than 100 days after the shootings in Newtown, Connnecticut, that killed a total of 28 people including 20 elementary school students, Congress has still not passed new gun registration legislation.

“What are they waiting for?” the news anchor implies. I suppose the news report could have begun:

Just five years after the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects the individual’s right to bear arms, members of Congress are seeking to pass gun control legislation.

But I’m not holding my breath. It’s just a reminder that the language used even in straight news stories can frame the issue in the minds of readers and listeners.