Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Headline News

My Toxic comments follow this email post I rec'd:

A biker is riding by the zoo, when he sees a little girl leaning into the lion's cage. Suddenly, the lion grabs her by the cuff of her jacket and tries to pull her inside to slaughter her, under the eyes of her screaming parents.

The biker jumps off his bike, runs to the cage and hits the lion square on the nose with a powerful punch. Whimpering from the pain the lion jumps back letting go of the girl, and the biker brings her to her terrified parents, who thank him endlessly.

A reporter has seen the whole scene, and addressing the biker, says - Sir, this was the most gallant and brave thing I saw a man do in my whole life.

Why, it was nothing, really, the lion was behind bars. I just saw this little kid in danger, and acted as I felt right.

Well, I'll make sure this won't go unnoticed. I'm a journalist, you know, and tomorrow's papers will have this on the first page. What motorcycle do you ride?

A Harley Davidson.

The journalist leaves.

The following morning the biker buys the paper to see if it indeed brings news of his actions, and reads, on first page: "BIKER GANG MEMBER ASSAULTS AFRICAN IMMIGRANT AND STEALS HIS LUNCH."

An excellent example of how our "news?" is distorted!

Toxic comments: Having worked for newspapers, submitted stories to newspapers and now owning my own, I'm well aware of how information is distorted. The journalist writing the story rarely gets to write their own headline, it's the publisher or other designee, sometime the editor, who does the honors. They write headlines to catch attention. They shift stories around to create sensation and... sell newspapers. It's a business. The more controversy, the better their sales.

The best-intentioned journalist can write a heart-warming story only to have headlines attached to it like those in the "joke" above. The first paragraph will support the headline to some degree. If you read to the end many times you'll find the very last paragraph or two contains the reality, the other side, the facts. Unfortunately, many (if not most) will read an article's headline and maybe the first paragraph or two.

Reporters are human, too. Whether we like it or not, their own slant determines how they write their story. I've only known one true balanced reporter in my life. He is no longer with us and the business of writing for newspapers suffers for his loss (at least locally!).

I would bet if you do a bit of research with an open mind on almost any story you'll find the bias without much of a problem. Try going to a local County Commission or City Council meeting, then reading what's written in the paper. You may be surprised at what isn't reported. That alone shows a bias...

No comments: