One of the most subtle ways print reporters show bias is inconsistency in how sources quotes are handled. It's common practice to "clean up" a quote for publication. No one needs to know all of the pauses and "hrms" that accompanied someone's words. "Gonna" becomes "going to" and "wanna" becomes "want to."
But what do you do if someone mispronounces a word or "drops a g" when they talk about "runnin' for office"? Sometimes you're not even sure if, say, the g was dropped. So you just include it. Other times the dropped 'g" is so obvious and for such dramatic effect that it would be more unethical to include it than leave it out. But most of the time, the question is much muddier and hard to decide.
I remember noting during the 2008 campaign that Barack Obama and Sarah Palin were both likely to "drop a g" while on the campaign trail. Both are effective campaigners who know that speaking like a typical person endears you to an audience. Live audiences tend to be much more receptive to such linguistic maneuvers than print readers are, though.
When their words were written up, only Palin's were transcribed as she spoke them. Reporters typically cleaned up Obama's words for publication. Is this disparity the end of the world? Certainly not, but it's worth considering as you read your newspaper and notice which individuals get the Palin treatment and which individuals get the Obama treatment.
Except now Obama got the Palin treatment and some folks aren't happy. When President Obama spoke to the Congressional Black Caucus last weekend, he gave a very effective speech that included myriad "dropped g's." The Associated Press transcribed it accurately and caught flak from MSNBC:
On MSNBC, the African-American author Karen Hunter complained the news service transcribed Obama's speech without cleaning it up as other outlets did--specifically including the "dropped g's."
Via the AP version:
"Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes," he said, his voice rising as applause and cheers mounted. "Shake it off. Stop complainin'. Stop grumblin'. Stop cryin'. We are going to press on. We have work to do."
Hunter called the AP's version "inherently racist," sparring with New Republic contributing editor and noted linguistics expert John McWhorter, who argued the g-less version "is actually the correct one," noting that the president's victory in the 2008 election was due, in part, to how effortlessly "he can switch into that [black] dialect."
Hunter said she teaches her journalism students to clean up grammar for quotations lest the source come off ignorant.