Embracing Liberal "Living Wage," Avoiding Conservative "Amnesty"

Double standards in labeling: The Times doesn't question the dubious "living wage" label - but conservatives can't use "amnesty."

Wednesday's Times carries two examples of sneaky labeling bias, one in which the Times shunts around a conservative-friendly term ("amnesty"), another in which it embraces a liberal one ("living wage").

Julia Preston's latest pro-immigration story, "Senators Reach Outline on Immigration Bill," contained this long-winded phrasing:

"In the Senate, 'the debate about amnesty is coming to an end,' said Tamar Jacoby, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute, referring to the term Republicans used last year to reject Mr. Bush's plan to grant legal status to illegal immigrants. 'The debate has shifted to much more important ground: Are we going to create an immigration system going forward that deals with our labor needs in a legal way?'

(While Jacoby is at the "conservative Manhattan Institute," she doesn't take the traditional conservative position on immigration, a point the Times could have clarified.)

Also on Wednesday, labor reporter Steven Greenhouse reported "Maryland Is First State to Require Living Wage."

Matching the headline, Greenhouse straightforwardly called the bill a living wage bill several times in his story, without quotation marks or any other reportorial distancing device to hint that "living wage" may be a questionable description - even though it's far less accurate than the conservative terms "amnesty" or "partial-birth abortion." "Partial-birth abortion" is another term the Times never uses without either setting it off in quotation marks or preceding it with a distancing phrase like "what opponents call partial-birth abortion."

Greenhouse: "Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland signed the nation's first statewide living wage bill yesterday, giving fresh momentum to a movement that seeks to raise wages through legislation.

"Under the law, employers with state contracts will generally have to pay workers a minimum amount - $11.30 an hour in the Baltimore-Washington corridor and $8.50 an hour in the rural counties, where wages and prices are usually lower."

Greenhouse never wrote "what supporters call a living wage."