Slanting the News Against Terri Schiavo

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on March 23, 2005

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Directions

-Read the excerpt below from MRC.org's "Media Reality Check" on March 22nd.
-Read "Types of Media Bias" in the right column. Then answer the questions.

A new Media Research Center study finds the three broadcast network evening newscasts have tilted their recent coverage of the Terri Schiavo case in ways that bolster her husband Michael’s arguments that the severely disabled woman is in an irreversible vegetative state and had clearly expressed a desire to die. But network reporters have attempted to debunk arguments made by her parents – namely that some doctors believe she could be helped and that Mrs. Schiavo, a Catholic, would not want her feeding tube disconnected.  …

… Rejecting the Schindlersâ’ Case: Three-fifths (60%) of soundbites (including reporter comments) presented Michael Schiavo’s case that Terry Schiavo should die, compared with just two-fifths offering the counter-arguments of her parents. Not a single story was devoted to a skeptical look at Schiavo and whether he was acting in his wife’s best interests, but all three networks ran stories rejecting Mr. and Mrs. Schindler’s view that their daughter could possibly be helped.

On Friday, a few hours after Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube was removed, ABC’s Peter Jennings dismissed one of the Schindlers’ worries: “They also say that she will die a painful death, though there does not seem to be any support for that argument in the medical community.” On Monday’s World News Tonight, reporter Jake Tapper rejected the value of videotapes showing Terri Schiavo apparently responding: “In some ways, these tapes are like psychological inkblot tests. You see in them what you want.” Then ABC’s Dr. Tim Johnson summarized that “the conventional wisdom, by experts in this field, is that after five years in a persistent vegetative state, there is virtually no chance for recovery.” NBC showed Dr. Robert Cranford, who has examined Mrs. Schiavo. He said that in spite of how she appears on videotape, “she’s as unconscious as someone who is dead.”

None of the broadcast network stories showed even one dissenting expert. But FNC’s Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes on Monday interviewed Dr. William Hammesfahr, a neurologist who spent 10 hours observing Terri Schiavo. Hammesfahr said she is “completely aware and conscious and responsive…like a child with cerebral palsy.” Is Hammesfahr offering false hope, or did the networks stack the deck against Terri Schiavo? 

(For the complete story, click here.)

Questions

What types of bias is the excerpt below an example of?


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Answer(s)

The excerpt is an example of bias by selection of sources and spin.