Subtle media bias showed in coverage on Young-Galvin race


The Alaska Public Media-KTUU “Debate for the State” on Friday demonstrated the policy and position differences between Congressman Don Young and his challenger Alyse Galvin.

Galvin didn’t know the difference between a Coast Guard cutter and an ice breaker, and stuck to her attack points. During much of the debate she seemed on the verge of tears, her emotions close to the surface. Don Young stayed above the fray and didn’t insult her for her lack of preparation, and also didn’t respond to her attacks and insults, although he did call out reporter Rich Mauer for having been politically motivated in his coverage.

But what the debate also demonstrated is the subtle media bias that few but the trained eye can detect. It was a demonstration of tricks of the trade in television.

On Friday night, it happened in the control room of KAKM public broadcasting studios.

KAKM ran the “chroma” very hot on Young to make him look red, and on HD TV, he was nearly a posterized red during three quarters of the debate. The color adjustments on Galvin and the panel of reporters was normal. The image comparison below is from a computer screen and doesn’t show the dramatic difference that was evident on an HD Sony television.


Must Read Alaska asked the Young campaign if the congressman was unusually red, and was told he was not, although the studio was warm.

In campaign ads, video image is everything as campaigns use cinematic techniques to favor their candidates and discredit others. Lighting, image quality, color, and angle are all considered tools in the toolbox of persuasion. Such techniques when used to show a candidate badly are not considered fair play for public broadcasting, which receives government funds and is supposed to demonstrate impartiality.

Further bias was present in the studio itself on Friday night. Galvin was allowed to have her large campaign staff “in studio,” while the two people who accompanied Don Young — his wife, Ann and his state director Chad Padgett — were asked to leave the studio. They watched the debate from a conference room upstairs.

[Correction 10-28-2018: Alaska Public Media representative said Galvin’s staff was not allowed in the studio during the debate and if Young wanted to look better on camera he should have worn makeup. It appears Young mistook the panel of reporters for Galvin supporters. Don Young has never worn makeup, however.]

Over at KTVA, reporters are employing the same types of technology tricks to create an impression among readers:

In the story about the two campaigns, the station used an image of Congressman Young with his eyes closed and mouth open, while the image of Galvin showed her bright-eyed and smiling.

The station could have chosen any number of images in its story about the congressional race and has the technology to change the images. But most online viewers will not click on the video and watch it. They’ll just see the image, read the story, and move on. And the impression they might take from this photo is that Young is not very alert, while Galvin is.

Subtle media bias is shown in the KTVA image of Congressman Don Young, which is unflattering to the congressman, while the station uses a photo that is flattering of Alyse Galvin.


  1. There’s a good argument for cutting all public funding to public media. I was a reporter at a good one, KOTZ in Kotzebue. We were fair and balanced. But normally I can’t stand more than 30 seconds of Alaska Public Media. NPR has three basic topics: the joys of being a homosexual, the plight of black folks in racist America, and the Holocaust. And what goes for NPR and APRN goes double for the Voice of America and Radio Liberty. Dinosaurs with no purpose but to consume money!

  2. I totally agree, although, I did not quite think the bias was quite so subtle. Rich Mauer could barely contain himself as he challenged Congressman Young regarding a Spanish word he used to describe a “big problem.” I also noticed the reddish face on Congressman Young but assumed he either had a ruddy complexion or possibly high blood pressure. Thanks for the clarification.

  3. Believe me, these tactics don’t go unnoticed by the tec savvy general population and don’t need to be pointed out by anyone. Being partial, in the media, only works against all believability of both candidates and media.

  4. Galvin proved to be ill-prepared, unknowing of Alaska issues, and seemed to do nothing but attack Don Young. Her baseless allegations made her look petty and stupid. She is not ready for a big league job such as a member of the United States Congress, in fact, she should probably hope that the Hotel will give her position back to her.

  5. Rich Mauer can barely handle a news report without blustering and stumbling during the daily 5 o’clock report. Why would we expect anything different during this forum? Galvin is in way over her head; D.C. will chew her to bits before the dust forms on her Congressional desk. Congressman Young was respectful and aware of the bias surrounding him….the red face the station allowed should now be on their back ends!

    • Yes, who is this Rich Mauer? Apparently, this “reporter” has been around for awhile -he was here back in the day and has reappeared? I am no expert but he is less than stellar. He is a bit monotone in his delivery and a bit of a bore.

  6. KAKM, like the Shadow, has the power to cloud men’s minds?
    Rational minds were decided long before the parody was played.
    KAKM’s performance for the ages may yet rescue an audience from teetering into sanity.
    But we doubt it.

  7. Why is there a picture, of what LOOKS like a “play” icon and it does not play? I would love to see the actual video. I guess I cannot access it from your web site too bad. I love your reporting! Keep up the good work.

    • I just took a screen shot of it to show how it was displayed on the KTVA web site. I didn’t link it to the actual story, since it’s really about the subtle art of bias. -sd

  8. Remember the 1994 TIME cover of OJ’s mugshot? They darkened the image. It was also considered racist to think a darker image was more sinister looking. NEWSWEEK followed with the same image a week later. People went nuts. They can redden up Don’s face all they want. I guess they want to make it look like he’s about to have a stroke or something? I’m not sure. Photoshop might clear up Ms. Galvin’s complexion, but it can’t make her any smarter on policy issues. Good Luck!

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