CNN removes key fact

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on September 5, 2018

CNN removes key fact

A makeshift compound is seen in the desert area of Amalia, New Mexico, Aug. 10. Prosecutors seeking to keep two men and three women jailed on child-abuse charges in northern New Mexico now say they seized a document titled 'Phases of a Terrorist Attack' at the filthy desert compound where 11 children and a dead boy were found. | BRIAN SKOLOFF / VIA AP

Jump to...

Print

Example of Media Bias:

A 13-year-old boy found at a New Mexico compound [run by] the son of a controversial Brooklyn imam says he was being trained for “jihad” with firearm and hand-to-hand combat techniques, according to new court documents.

Siraj Ibn Wahhaj — whose dad runs a mosque in Brooklyn, New York and has been linked to the 1993 World Trade Center bombings — was preparing the 13-year-old and his teen brother to fight against non-believers through techniques including rapid reloads and hand-to-hand combat, he told FBI agents.

The 13-year-old, whose mom [is possibly married to] Wahhaj, was one of 11 kids [aged 1 to 16] and five adults found living at the squalid, armed compound in Taos County when it was raided on Aug. 3. (from a Sept. 2 NYP report)

New Mexico’s Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe stated in a news release:

“We had learned the occupants were most likely heavily-armed and considered extremists of the Muslim belief.”

Sheriff Hogrefe noted that FBI analysts had told him the suspects are apparently “extremists of the Muslim belief.”

CNN’s original report included the sheriff’s statement. This was later removed from the story, with no editor’s note. (See original CNN article at archive.org)

Questions

1. Why do you think CNN removed such a key fact – and did so without an editor’s note? (Read about the importance of an editor’s note at nytimes.com)

2. Read several headlines on this story:

  • 11 children rescued from ‘third-world’-like New Mexico compound, missing toddler’s father arrested – USA Today, Aug. 5
  • Eleven children found at squalid New Mexico compound, two arrested – Reuters, Aug. 5
  • Judge drops charges against 3 people linked to filthy New Mexico compound – CBS News, Aug. 29
  • 5 residents of New Mexico compound face firearms charges – ABC News, Sept. 4
  • New Mexico compound suspects appear in court on federal charges – CNN, Sept. 4

Consider the big picture here: Several adults led by the son of a controversial imam were training American children in a remote squalid compound in the U.S. to wage jihad.

a) After reading the headlines, what do you think this news story is about?

b) Why is it important for news organizations to provide accurate headlines?

c) What responsibility do you think publishers/editors have to provide accurate headlines that are not misleading?

d) Having read this post, what responsibility do you think you as the reader have to read the news with discernment?

CHALLENGE QUESTIONS:

  • What would have been a more accurate headline?
  • How should the media report this story? What questions should an investigative reporter ask, or attempt to find the answers to?

Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the answers.
























Answer(s)

1. Opinion question. Answers vary.

2. a) After reading the headlines, what do you think this news story is about?
The headlines indicate that some people were arrested for illegal possession of firearms or of child abuse or neglect. Seeing the word compound, the reader would assume that it was some sort of survivalist or anti-government group.

b) Why is it important for news organizations to provide accurate headlines?
Headlines can greatly influence readers’ opinions about the news. The importance of an accurate headline is that most people don’t read every word of every article; they often just skim the headlines. Therefore, those who read just a headline are not accurately informed when the headline misrepresents the story.

c) What responsibility do you think publishers/editors have to provide accurate headlines that are not misleading?
Publishers/editors should always provide accurate headlines that are not misleading. They should take this responsibility very seriously if they want the public to trust them and not view them as completely biased.

d) Having read this post, what responsibility do you think you as the reader have to read the news with discernment?
Read the whole article and not just the headline/caption/1st paragraph. Also, read multiple news stories on the same event. It will give a more accurate picture of what actually occurred.