The Media Bias Of Tombstone


I have blogged and railed many times about the obvious liberal media bias that is in our Country so I thought it was interesting while re-reading “Wyatt Earp – The Life Behind The Legend” (one of the best unbiased accounts of the Earp family) that the writer, Casey Tefertiller, documents almost the same kind of bias in the media 125 years ago. A few passages from Mr. Tefertiller:

Frontier journalism was rife with political partisanship; reporting and analysis were often highly biased. Newspapers had a great impact on the beliefs of the frontier populace. They were both a lifeline to the outside world and a barometer of public opinion. Editorials influenced how the citizenry would view major issues. Just about everyone who could read scanned a newspaper, and the literacy rate on the frontier was probably higher then it is more than a century later.

Side note – I can’t speak for the rest of the Country but I can guarantee that the literacy rate was higher back then then it is now amongst students of the Los Angeles public school system.

Back on track, while reading this book I was taken aback at how similiar the media of today is to the media of a century earlier (in content of course). The newspapers of the 1880’s were owned by men who had a agenda….sounds similiar huh?

Newspapers had another important function as well. By 1881, both the Epitaph and the Nugget (the only two papers in Tombstone) had daily and weekly editions, with the weeklies usually providing a summary of news highlights. Big investors around the country often subscribed to the weekly editions to keep up on important events in the mining town. The investors were really not to eager to read that their capital was in jeopardy in some wild territory teeming with outlaws. Constant stories of criminal doings could scare off investors with cash to open new mines or businesses and make the county prosper. Consequently the Nugget took to downplaying dangers around the county, making the cowboys seem playful rogues rather then true desperadoes. The law-and-order-loving Epitaph took the opposite tack, sensationalizing cowboy depredations and calling for strict law enforcement to make the district safe to lure greater investment.

In today’s world we have a organization called Al-Jazeera who sensationalizes any story having to do with US misconduct. They do this to further their goal of getting the US out of the middle east and getting a Palestinian state. We also have a organization called CNN that does much the same thing, they will sensationalize any story that makes the Bush administration look bad, while ignoring any story that does the opposite. So while the stakes are much higher in today’s world you can see the similiarity. Bias bias bias.

Reading the papers a century later, it becomes evident each was devoted more to furthering its own agenda than to reporting the news. The Epitaph relished every report of cowboy outrages in the county. The Nugget jousted with the mayor’s administration and ran numerous cracks about baldness, an obvious reference to Clum’s (owner and editor of the Epitaph) state of pate. Because the Republican paper emphasized crime reports, the Nugget charged the Epitaph with irresponsibility, saying such tidbits would only serve to scare investors away from Tombstone.

Yes, yes…I know. I’m making a big stretch here but you can see the similiarities. Bias 125 years ago, bias today.

Another passage in this book stood out. It has to do with the fact that people will believe anything as long as it’s repeated enough or if it appears there is an “inside story”. After the gunfight at the ok corral occurred the Earps and Doc Holliday were brought up on charges. The judge in the case (Judge Spicer) dismissed the charges at the preliminary hearing which didn’t go over to well in the cowboy community:

News of Spicer’s decision stirred the dusty town, with rumors of injustice and pending cowboy vengeance. Rumors live a life of their own, and all this talk of the Earps’ involvement in the stagecoach robberies just would not die. It is a trait of human nature that many people believe the “inside story” over the facts, whether or not their is basis for the inside story.

Kinda like the “Bush lied” mantra repeated by the moonbats even though not one piece of evidence exists that proves their supposed “fact”. They WANT to believe the “inside story” so over time it becomes fact in their mind.

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Supposedly, the NY Times ushered in the era of “unbiased” journalism in the early 20th century. At least that’s what the j-schools teach. What really happened is the bias became less apparent – for a time.