-Read the excerpt below from the Scott Whitlock 's post at MRC.org.
-Read "Types of Media Bias" in the right column. Then answer the questions.
Adapted from a post by Scott Whitlock at MRC.org. (original post date 5/7/12):
Despite devoting 33 stories to the dramatic case of blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, NBC and ABC have all but ignored the major cause of the human rights activist: Opposing the communist country’s policy of forced abortion and sterilization. From April 28 to May 7, the two networks only mentioned this detail five times – and then only in passing.
Although Chen’s high profile plight might seem like a logical time to take an expansive look into China’s one-child policy, the two networks passed. CBS, however, touted Chen’s pro-life activities the most, referencing them in seven of 16 stories. (The three networks totaled 44 stories over ten days.)
ABC: On April 28, ABC’s World News reporter David Kerley mentioned, as an aside, that Chen,”who has protested and exposed forced abortions and sterilizations, was able to scale a wall and escape” his house arrest. Two days later, on the April 30 [ABC’s] Good Morning America, news reader Josh Elliott explained, “[Chen] has been a strong activist in trying to halt force abortions and sterilizations, which limit the size of families in China to one child per couple.” After that, ABC dropped any mention of abortion. (The network had 11 total items on Chen’s case.)
NBC allowed three abortion references over 17 stories. Similar to ABC, the network stopped talking about the issue after the April 30th Nightly News. On April 28, reporter Ian Williams reminded, “After exposing forced sterilizations and abortions under China’s one child policy, he was jailed and then put under house arrest with his family.”
CBS‘s coverage proves that downplaying Chen’s opposition to abortion is one of editorial discretion. The network’s first story was on April 28 and the phrase “forced abortions” was used repeatedly all the way through May 3. Almost 50 percent of CBS’ stories mentioned the issue.
CBS aired reporter Holly Williams calling Chen an “extraordinary figure” and saying “Back in 2005, he exposed how thousands of people in his province of Zhangdong had been forced to undergo abortions and forced to undergo surgical sterilization.”
Redstate.com on May 7 explained the dire situation in China:
The little reported story is that Chen Guangcheng has protested China’s forced abortion policy where a Chinese mother who attempts to have a second baby will if caught, be dragged to the hospital by the police and forced to endure a late term abortion – even if it is mere hours before the actual birth.
Notice the silence from the very people in America who were howling to the heavens at the idea that anything might slow down the rush to abort when an expectant mother arrives at a Planned Parenthood abortion [center]?
What is the reason for this silence on Chen’s major cause? …Considering the fawning praise some in the media have heaped upon dictatorial China, it’s telling that journalists aren’t interested in the disturbing nature of forced abortions.
(This study looked at the morning and evening newscasts from April 28 through the May 7 NBC’s Today show, CBS This Morning and ABC’s Good Morning America.
Background on Chen Guangcheng:
- In 2005, activist lawyer Chen Guangcheng became internationally known for organizing a class-action lawsuit against the city of Linyi, China, for excessive enforcement of the one-child policy [he exposed many forced abortions and sterilizations].
- Chen was placed under house arrest, and then in August 2006, Chen was sentenced to prison. After release from prison in September 2010 he was placed again under house arrest at his home in Dongshigu Village. Chen and his wife were reportedly beaten shortly after a human rights group released a video of their home under intense police surveillance in February 2011. Chen’s case received sustained international attention, with the U.S. State Department, the British Foreign Secretary, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International issuing appeals for his release; the latter group designated him a prisoner of conscience.
- On April 22, 2012, Chen escaped his house arrest and fled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. After negotiations with the Chinese government, he left the embassy for medical treatment on May 2, 2012, and it was reported on May 4, 2012 that China will consider allowing him to travel to the United States to study.
Background on China’s One-Child Policy
The Chinese government implemented the One-Child Policy in 1979 to alleviate social, economic, and environmental problems in China, and authorities claim that the policy has prevented more than 250 million births from its implementation to 2000. The policy is controversial both within and outside China because of the manner in which it has been implemented, and because of concerns about negative economic and social consequences. The policy has been implicated in an increase in forced abortions and female infanticide, and has been suggested as a possible cause behind China’s gender imbalance. (from wikipedia)
1. What types of bias did the networks display in their reports on Chen Guangcheng?
2. In the excerpt below, Scott Whitlock says “Although Chen’s high profile plight might seem like a logical time to take an expansive look into China’s one-child policy, the two networks passed.” Why do you think NBC and ABC chose to ignore the main reason Chen has been imprisoned, placed under house arrest and beaten by police? (The reason for his imprisonment, etc. is his exposure of the Chinese government policy of forcing women to have abortions against their will, and sterilizing others to prevent them from having more than one child.)
Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the answers.
1. Ignoring the main reason for Chen’s imprisonment and house arrest is bias by omission: leaving out the most important part of the story in this case.
2. Opinion question. Answers vary.