Michael Goodwin, a New York Post columnist who began his journalism career at The New York Times, last month wrote a two-part commentary that chronicled the long, steady erosion of reporting integrity. Although Goodwin focused on the Times, his observations that bias has become common in the mainstream media easily applies to many publications. Editors who could once be counted on to, as Goodwin wrote, veer copy toward the middle, gradually became as much of a problem as the reporters whose work they review.
Nowhere is journalism bias more blatantly on display than in immigration stories. Even though polling shows that at least half of all Americans want less immigration, most stories tell only the expansion side, and in the process leave their readers under-informed.
Case in point: Fortune Magazine, the respected, 90-year-old business publication, recently did a story about one of most controversial programs that’s hurtful to U.S. tech workers, the Optional Practical Training program. In brief, OPT allows international students on F-1 visas to remain in the U.S. and work for at least a year, and longer if they have earned degrees in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM).
Although there are multiple reasonable arguments that can be made in opposition to OPT, none of them appeared in reporter Nicole Goodkind’s article. Among OPT’s flaws that Goodkind omitted are that OPT is not congressionally approved, yet it has ballooned into the nation’s largest guest worker program.
OPT is a voracious American job killer. Department of Homeland Security data shows that, since 2015 and through May 2017, nearly 500,000 students received OPT, and another 150,000 have STEM extensions. That’s 650,000 good jobs being held now by foreign nationals versus qualified American workers. There’s a powerful incentive for tech companies to hire OPT foreign workers. A 15 percent discount has allowed multinational corporations to evade at least $20 billion to $30 billion in FICA taxes over the years. The OPT worker doesn’t pay FICA either, and therefore doesn’t contribute to Social Security or Medicare.
In her 1,200-word article, Goodkind glowingly cited five pro-OPT sources, including major corporations, that profit from the program. Among them are Google and immigration advocacy groups like the Mark Zuckerberg-founded FWD.us. Goodkind wrote that an amicus brief FWD.us filed supporting OPT read like: “a who’s who of Silicon Valley. Tech giants like Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Airbnb, Bloomberg, Intel, Microsoft, Tesla, Twitter, Uber, and Zillow….”
Yet Goodkind quoted only one critic, John Miano, a lawyer and expert on the effect of foreign labor on technology workers. Miano has worked on behalf of workers and pro-American worker organizations and for more than a decade has challenged OPT in federal court. Goodkind assassinated Miano’s character and that of his associates. Goodkind quoted Miano after she had inaccurately and wrongly marginalized him.
Miano told me, however, that if Goodkind had done the due diligence once considered honest journalism’s bedrock instead of lazily relying on FWD.us she would have seen that the money trail explains everything. “The tech industry spends tens of millions of dollars each month lobbying for more foreign labor and to preserve their ability to replace working American with that foreign labor,” said Miano.
Fortune once was a highly respected magazine that would never have permitted slanted copy like Goodkind’s to get past the first editorial layer, let alone get published. By passing over OPT’s damaging effects on American workers, Goodkind abandoned the principals that journalists themselves established years ago. The 110-year-old Society for Professional Journalists’ ethics code warns reporters to “avoid advocacy,” advice which Goodkind ignored. As former Washington Post ombudsman E.R. Shipp wrote in her column “In Pursuit of Fairness,” no story is fair if it omits facts of major importance and significance. Goodkind disregarded that basic, most obvious rule.
Reporters like Goodkind need to remember that the full story – he said, she said – is always more compelling than a cheerleading story that quickly becomes tedious.