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Bias at Yahoo News?

John on December 7, 2005 at 3:09 pm

Since last Friday, Yahoo News has had a story titled IS GEORGE BUSH THE WORST PRESIDENT…EVER? listed under their top 5 most e-mailed items. I’ve had Yahoo as my home page for years and check their news frequently. I’ve never seen a story remain in the most e-mailed for 5 days. I began to suspect this was being done on purpose. I did some searches and found the story posted over at Daily Kos. The person who posted it then added this comment:

Freep the Yahoo list (none / 1)
Let’s get this article to stay on top for a long time, shall we ?

When everything seems like the movies
Yeah you bleed BLOG just to know your alive
by lawnorder on Mon Dec 05, 2005 at 07:06:05 AM PDT

I considered posting about this yesterday, but decided I needed more info. I wrote Yahoo News asking them to explain what the numbers below the stories, which change every hour, mean, i.e. how are they calculated. The answer I got was:

The articles in question are calculated based not only on the number of
votes but the date which the article was published. Only the most
recent articles will appear in the most popular/most e-mailed sections
of Yahoo! News.

Which sort of confirms that something fishy is going on here, since this piece has been around for five days. I sent another e-mail to Yahoo asking them for further explanation. So far no response.

Then today I came across this story over at LGF in which Yahoo News has headlined a story about a Palestinian suicide bomber as follows: Israeli Suicide Bomber Kills 5 at Mall. Charles at LGF was indicating that this error was probably the result of the AP sending the headline and Yahoo posting it automatically in some way. However I found a copy of the story on the AP website which does not include the word Israeli in the headline. Then a commenter (beyerku #100) at LGF found a story indicating that Yahoo News does in fact have human editors. That led me to this story which says it more clearly:

“We use actual humans,” he added. “News is far too human of an endeavor to rely 100 percent on automation.”

So even if it came from the AP with the error already present, they should have caught it. Then again, CBS news has the same headline.

Israpundit received an e-mail from Aron Heller who wrote the story for the AP. He says:

Obviously, this headline was a terrible error that fell somewhere in the
editing process. That was not the headline that left our bureau in
Jerusalem and probably someone in New York or at Yahoo replaced
“Palestinian” with “Israeli.”

So the error is not the AP’s fault, though as noted above the word “Palestinian” is not in the headline on their own website. In any case, it appears the human editors at Yahoo are to blame. But then how did CBS end up with the same headline? Something is fishy here…

[I have screen captures of everything should the headlines disappear.]

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