On September 18, 2022, the Associated Press published a report titled Prospect of far-right female premier divides Italian women. The prompt for the article is that Ms. Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Brothers of Italy party, is apparently well-positioned (if the polls are to be believed) to be the next Italian Premier after the September 25 election. From the headline, one might expect a report on how some women in Italy support the prospect of Ms. Meloni being the next Prime Minister while others oppose it. From the use of “far right” in the headline (far right relative to what?) and my general understanding of how the Associated Press writes reports, I had a suspicion this would not be the case. Sure enough, the article consists almost entirely of rhetorical broadsides against Ms. Meloni by the reporter, Frances D’Emilo, and quotes from women in Italy who are very much opposed to Ms. Meloni’s politics. There is scant evidence in the article that any women in Italy support Ms. Meloni’s political ambitions. We have a single line: “According to pollsters, Meloni attracts slightly more male than female voters.” Because the article stated that recent polls indicated that the Brothers of Italy were in line to win some 25% of the vote, this suggests that there are many women in Italy who will vote for the party on the 25th. Near the end of the article, after the reporter listed a number of disagreements with Ms. Meloni and collected quotes from women who dislike Ms. Meloni, it quoted a single woman who said that she backs Ms. Meloni “as a politician, not as a woman.” I must note that having read the article, there is no indication that anyone in Italy is supporting Ms. Meloni because she is a woman in spite of her policies, thus undercutting the implied premise of the headline.
Now I have no horse in the Italian elections. I am not Italian and have never been to Italy. The citizens and nationals of Italy will and should be the ones to decide their political future. But this report by the AP is little more than a thinly veiled editorial against Ms. Meloni and the Brothers of Italy. There are two issues with the article. Firstly, the AP presents itself as an impartial news outlet while using its reports to smuggle editorial commentary into papers all over the world (much like many supposed “fact checkers” which I wrote about in 2020). Secondly, the AP’s headline falsely suggests to readers that the article will introduce the political situation in Italy and provide views of Ms. Meloni and her party from both a positive and negative perspective. Setting an impartial expectation (for those who are not unfortunate enough to know better) only serves to lend gravitas to what is ultimately a political operation in news report form. The Associated Press is more than welcome to engage in commentary. However, it should distinguish commentary from news.