Monday, June 19, 2017

CNN really is biased--at least this one story
As part of my presentation at the IVOH Restorative Narratives Summit later this week in New York, I've picked a CNN story at random (16 June 2017) and analyzed it to see if it reflected peace journalism principles. What I learned surprised me: the Trump people might have a point about CNN not giving the president a fair shake. Keep in mind this is just one story, and that to draw any conclusions, we'd have to analyze dozens of stories. Still, what I found (below) is food for thought.

MY OVERALL ANALYSIS:
The story is built on a house of cards—on the flimsiest of unnamed sources, and on speculation. It paints (smears?) Trump as angry, emotional, increasingly withdrawn, and out of control, but offers little in the way of proof other than Trump’s use of the term “witch hunt.”

Click on the two photos below to more easily read the story and my comments.


Monday, June 5, 2017

Terrorism coverage distorts reality
When it comes to biased media, one automatically thinks of left-right political bias, of Sean Hannity vs. Media Matters, for example. But there’s another kind of bias that infects our news media—the bias that minimizes victims of terrorism who don’t live in North America or Europe.

By watching the news, one might think that most terror victims were Christians living in the U.S. or Europe. However, “By far the vast majority of victims of terrorist attacks over the past 15 years has been Muslims killed by Muslims…’I understand why the media cover terrorism in the West so closely, and I understand why people who follow these events become so frightened, but objectively speaking the threat of terrorism is not very great,’ said Richard Bulliet, a professor emeritus of history at Columbia University.” (https://www.voanews.com/a/most-terrorism-victims-are-in-mulim-majority-countires/3478905.html)

In my book Peace Journalism Principles and Practices, I cite a 2011 report by the U.S. government's National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC) that said, "In cases where the religious affiliation of terrorism casualties could be determined, Muslims suffered between 82 and 97% of terrorism-related fatalities over the past five years." Also, a Washington Post analysis of all terrorist attacks from the beginning of 2015 through the summer of 2016 that shows that the Middle East, Africa and Asia have seen “nearly 50 times more deaths from terrorism than Europe and the Americas.’” (http://www.salon.com/2017/06/03/we-mourn-manchester-but-not-kabul-how-biased-coverage-of-terrorist-attacks-drives-us-apart/)

Two recent examples demonstrate how the volume and tone of terrorism coverage highlights suffering in the West, and marginalizes victims from elsewhere. On May 22, an attack in Manchester killed 23 and injured 116. In the two days following the attack, a Lexis-Nexis search of newspaper articles with the keyword “Manchester” maxed out at 1,000 hits per day, meaning that there were at least 2,000 newspaper stories about Manchester on May 23-24. On May 31, a bomb in Kabul killed 90 and wounded 400. A Lexis-Nexis search of newspaper articles with the keyword “Kabul” got 333 hits on June 1, and 212 hits on June 2—substantially fewer articles than about the Manchester attack.

The tone of coverage between the attacks is also different, according to at least one observer. In Salon, Sophia McClennen writes, “In the Manchester story, there was a deeply human face to the coverage. Audiences became familiar with individual girls who lost their lives and they connected with the mothers who were searching for information about their loved ones.

…In the coverage of the Kabul bombing, a New York Times piece did mention the difficulties loved ones were having in tracking down information on those who were caught in the blast. But that piece also included strangely cold language: ‘In different corners of the city, workers and relatives dug graves for the ones who, with life having become a game of chance, just were not lucky.’ Imagine a reporter referring to those being buried in Manchester with the same sort of detached language.” (http://www.salon.com/2017/06/03/we-mourn-manchester-but-not-kabul-how-biased-coverage-of-terrorist-attacks-drives-us-apart/)

This distorted coverage leads to undue fear in the West about being a terrorist victim, the risk of which is actually about 0.000003 percent, according to Peace Journalism Principles and Practices. This exaggeration empowers those who seek to capitalize on the war on terror for their own gain. This distorted coverage also dehumanizes those outside the West who are most often are victimized by terrorists, leading to indifference about these victims’ plight and fueling anti-terrorism policies that often don’t reflect reality.

Unless media’s coverage of terrorism becomes less hysterical and more proportional, there’s little hope that our society’s discourse about terrorism can become more nuanced and sophisticated.