Fined for feeding the homeless?
Media Bias Disclaimer and reason for writing this
Something which I've noticed and become interested in over the last few months is media bias. Depending on the source of your news, all sorts of biases will be present. For example, the huffington post is typically perceived as a liberal news source; while breitbart is often seen as conservative.
Whichever news you read, these bias will reflect onto your perceptions if you're not careful. Without diversification of your news consumption, you may end up deeply entrenched in the rhetoric of your chosen side. Some people are fine with this, I prefer to avoid it if possible.
Demonizing "the other side" whether they be liberal, republican, socialist, communist, or otherwise is cutting yourself off from a potential learning experience or interesting view point. While you may not agree with someone's claim, part of freedom of speech is tolerating that, and mature individuals will respect another's right to it while also teasing out the truth no matter which side is presented.
So let's look at an example.
Today I saw this article come by my news feed. According to their home page, "IJReview is a news, politics & culture forum for everyday Americans who need to know what is fun and important now." This means that most of the site is likely to be shared content from other mediums. A brief look over the home page shows a variety of content due to the social nature of the site, it also shows a section of the site called "The Journal", which are editor picks and therefore more in line with what the people running the site probably believe.
While there is a disclaimer stating that the opinions or information from each contributor don't represent IJReview, we all know the people running the show are human. The editor pick above is written by Kurt Schlichter, who appears to be a conservative. A few other pieces in the slideshow show pieces by John Brodigan, who seems to fall into that line too. A Nathan Nickell writes for this section as well, and whose twitter is anti-hilary, which leads me to imagine he might also fall into the conservative camp.
In addition to those three, The Journal section follows up with a piece from John Boehner, who is the Speaker of the House and is a Republican. It also has a piece from Conservative Sister Toldjah and A.P. Dillan. So overall, one would get the impression that the IJReview is a conservative news outlet. Nothing wrong with that, but good to keep in mind that those who create content on the website or for it, may hold any bias's you can think of as conservative.
Moving right along, we'll note the author's other articles and that they're rather active in contributing content to the site. A perusal of the headlines they've written, in my opinion, show a mix of topics and a more centered opinion that makes it hard to pin them to Left or Right. All this taken into account, we can digest the piece itself.
The news article
The news centers around Joan Cheever, a woman who runs a non profit called The Chow Train, whose laudable goal is to feed the homeless. Which she does, every tuesday, serving hot meals from her food truck since 2005. The headline of the article is misleading and acts as clickbait to draw a user in. The first half of the headline, "Chef Gets Served a $2000 Fine for Feeding the Homeless" is incorrect. She was not served a fine for feeding the homeless, she was served a fine while feeding the homeless. However, the text in the IJReview article does not mention the actual offense, only Cheever's reaction to it. And only reports on the appeals to the heart and to religious morals.
Watching the video linked on the article does show the full story, but for anyone who only reads the text, they will be misled. The original story source does state the police's reasons for ticketing her. That serving the food from a regular truck instead of her Non Profit one was against the city ordinance.
In all likelihood, the ordinance in question is in Article IV, Sec 13-62 (b). Which is the permit requirements for mobile food establishments. Subsection b7 states:
"The manner of mobile food vending operation to be conducted; as for example foot vending, truck, trailer, pushcart, etc.;"
This implies to me, that whatever permit Cheever has will dictate the outcome her contesting the ticket. If her permit says she is only allowed to serve from her food truck, she will likely lose. If the wording on the permit isn't restricted, than she will likely be able to throw the ticket out.
Of course, morally, I'd say the judge will likely lighten the fine at the very least. $2000 for what (I assume to be) a one time offense? That's pretty absurd, while those restrictions are in place to keep environments serving food safe and sanitary, the video stated that she was handing out food she had packaged already; in the same way that she would have from her usual truck. In that case, her stance of it being like delivery is fairly valid. But the bottom line is that if her permit doesn't say she can deliver or serve food from that truck she used in particular, then she's out of luck with the law.
I don't buy into the constitution defense however. Citing religious freedom to be able to break a permit? Absurd. If this was allowed, it opens the way for others to do the same. While I don't question that she is truthful in her statement: "This is how I pray. When I cook this food and deliver it to the people who are less fortunate", it's a slippery slope that could lead to other's trespassing, serving food or business from unsanitary conditions because that's "how I pray". She can pray all she wants, from her designated Non Profit and sanitary approved truck.
Overall, I hope the ticket gets thrown out so Cheever can keep up the good work. If her permit is unambigious in regards to only her truck being able to be used, and the judge is forced to penalize her, I hope he lightens the cost as much as he can. But I also hope that her religious defense is thrown out of the court as it simply doesn't hold much water and allows for abuse by others should it go through.
What does this have to do with media bias?
In general, conservatives are portrayed and characterized as religious. It is unsurprising therefore, that a primarily conservative news outlet uses a religious argument and emphasizes said argument in their reporting of an issue. They are also typically thought of as proponents of small government. In this article we have a clear religious tone as well as an anti-governmental one when you consider that they are toting for the permit law to not apply to Cheever due to religious freedom.
This type of reporting itself is fine, so long as one recognizes it and can think for themselves on the issue and perform their own research.