Biased WashPost Headline: 'Justices Throw Out Texas Electoral Maps Favoring Minorities'

January 20th, 2012 3:01 PM

In an unsigned per curiam opinion issued today, the U.S. Supreme Court tossed out a federal judge's revision of Texas's congressional redistricting map, finding that the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas had "substituted its own concept of 'the collective public good' for the Texas Legislature’s determination of which policies serve 'the interests of the citizens of Texas.'" The court "appears to have unnecessarily ignored the State’s plans in drawing certain individual districts," the Court added. No justice dissented and Associate Justice Clarence Thomas issued a concurrence.

Yet in teasing Supreme Court correspondent Robert Barnes's story on the Washington Post's website, editors colored the decision in a way that portrayed the move as the justices having "throw[n] out... electoral maps favoring minorities." [see screencap below page break]

The headline for Barnes's story itself -- Supreme Court sides with Texas on redistricting plan -- was neutrally-worded and Barnes article was fair and substantive. But for casual visitors to the Post website, the biased front-page headline could communicate to readers that the Court set out to harm the interests of minority voters, rather than acting unanimously to arrest an instance of judicial activism.