How biased is your media? (5X8 – 2/16/12)

Sorting left from right, the mailbag, the new-car smell is to die for, gifts to the weak-ice gods, and tipping baristas.


The left and the right blame each other for pretty much everything, including slanted media coverage. Can they both be right? Freakonomics Radio considers how you know how biased your media is? Pour another cup of Joe and listen in.

Related: Anyone can be a journalist (Wisconsin State Journal)


The mailbag was full this morning with stories of vastly different tone, but all surrounding the theme of trying to help or teach others. Keep your stories coming!

Here are the top missives overnight.

arijit.jpgKate Graham writes:

A friend of mine from college, Arijit Guha (Carleton College ’03), was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer about a year ago. He recently learned that his health insurance coverage had run out–there was a $300,000 lifetime cap on benefits. He is now reaching out to his community of friends and family for donations to cover his medical costs until he can get on the new Pre-Existing Coverage Insurance Plan offered by the federal government (to qualify he has to be without insurance coverage for at least six months). He estimates his medical costs in this interim period will be between $100K and $150K. Characteristic of Ari’s creativity and humor, he has launched a clever website to solicit donations:

The man maintains a sense of humor. His site is called Poop Strong.

Christopher Nelson, a teacher in St. Paul, writes to ask a favor of Wells Fargo: Don’t put so many roadblocks up in front of people trying to raise money to help other people:

I coordinate the Pennies for Patients Campaign at my school. So, I “count” the coins each classroom collects. I use local banks’ coin counting machines to speed up the process. Wells Fargo told me I could use their coin-counting machine because I had a Health Savings Account (HSA) with them for free, BUT I would have to pay a fee for asking them to draft a check to the Pennies for Patients organization. This charity seeks to find a cure for blood cancer in children, like leukemia. I was appalled that the bank wouldn’t waive the fee for drafting a check, when they allowed it the night before (I had a lot of coins to count, so I was unable to finish the job the first night). Does this merit discussion? Banks have been given a pretty bad rap lately, and now they want to charge a fee to draft a check that goes to kids dying from cancer?


And Dana Coleman, the Andover first-grade teacher whose kids have been stymied in their attempt to get a bill through the Legislature to honor the black bear as the state mammal, reports progress. Their bill has been granted a hearing.

Now it’s the first grader’s opportunity to show the Minnesota House, State Government Finance Committee, why this bill is so important to them. Hopefully the committee members will be delightfully impressed with the testimony these first graders hope to deliver. There is nothing more pure and honest than a child and their beliefs. I couldn’t be more proud of any group of kids then I am of these! They have a passion in their bellies and are a force to be reckoned with.

Thank you to the media for highlighting their bill, to the general public for contacting your legislators for them and to our bill’s authors, Senator Michelle Benson, Senator Barb Goodwin and House of Representative Peggy Scott for believing in this bill and in them. I’m forever grateful!

This is just the beginning of our battle though, but they’ve accomplished the biggest hurdle, getting a hearing. Please continue to support these six and seven-year-olds on their ‘journey of a lifetime!’

Even better: She sends along another picture of her crew, because NewsCut loves first-graders and favors legislation requiring they stay this cute forever:



We suppose this had to come out sooner or later. That new-car smell, coveted by millions of Americans, is toxic. A group called “The Ecology Center” researched the “off gas” and tested 200 new cars, finding the Chrysler 200 SC and the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport are the worst, according to CBS:

The researchers found more than 275 different chemicals in the interiors of cars. Some chemicals of concern include bromine from brominated flame retardants (BFRs) which are added to plastics to make them less flammable, chlorine used for polyvinyl chloride (PVC) used for plastics and windshields, lead, and heavy metals.

The researchers said BFR exposure has been tied to thyroid problems, learning and memory impairment, decreased fertility, and behavioral changes while PVCs which contain chemicals called phthalates are linked to decreased fertility, and problems with the liver, testes, thyroid, ovaries, kidneys, and blood.

Of the vehicles tested, the Honda Civic was rated the least likely to kill you with its new-car small.


There’s a new twist this morning on the theme of people who are ignoring warnings that ice on the state’s lakes is too thin to be driving on. Every other day or so, someone’s car or truck goes through the ice on the state. Today, the East Otter Tail Focus reports brothers Craig and Brian Swanson lost not one, but two vehicles over a weekend.

Both vehicles were brand new.


John Reinan, of Idea Peepshow, asks a question that launches a thousand debates: “When there’s a tip jar on the counter, do you make sure the barista sees you put some money in it? Or do you slip the cash in the jar while their back is turned?”

(Update: Colleague Paul Tosto again proves that every story has a Seinfeld segment to go with it.)

Bonus I: Super Bowl air traffic.

Bonus II: “Making things look more confusing than they are is a delicate function.”

Bonus III: The Vikings stadium debate in Internet memes.


Apple is trying to resolve concerns about worker conditions at its overseas manufacturing plants. The company has invited the Fair labor Association to review conditions at the plants in China that assemble iPads and iPhones. Today’s Question: Do you concern yourself with conditions at plants that make your consumer products?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Books transport us to new places, inspire us to embark on new adventures, empower us to take risks and enrich our knowledge or experience. What book inspired your adventure or what book did you read as a child that made you want to explore some far off land? What book could you not put down because it fully transported you to a new land?

Second hour: Do you have destination you’ve always wanted to visit? If you do, travel writer Patricia Schultz can probably tell where to go and what to do when you finally get there. She joins Kerri Miller to talk about the updated version of the world’s bestselling travel book. (Rebroadcast)

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – Both hours: Maya Angelou’s PRI black history month special. John Lewis, Nikky Finney, Julianne Malveau and Andrew Young.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: The Syrian opposition. Divisions include religion and tribe, young and old, rural and urban, expats, refugees, and deserters, and ideologies from secular socialists to radical Islamists.

Second hour: New rules for Oscars. The traditional method to compile Oscar’s short list for documentaries can seem inscrutable at best, capricious at worst. So the Academy revised the process to make it more transparent, but not everyone thinks it’s an improvement. Michael

Moore discusses the new rules for Oscar docs.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – The debate on whether China’s soaring economic growth can continue. High-speed rail, power plants, airports, and highways. China’s government keeps building infrastructure fast. But is too fast for the country’s economy to handle?