Fair and Unbiased? Think Again
How can reports from two mainstream media outlets on the same incident tell two totally different stories?
The known facts of the incident are quite simple at this point. On May 3, 2015 two gunmen pulled their car up to the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas; the location for a contest in which participants were to draw the prophet Mohammed, and opened fire. One security guard was wounded before police killed to the two perpetrators.
MSNBC, an online news source commonly known to promote a more liberal position on its stories, featured this event as its featured headline. Somewhat surprisingly, the author chose to focus on the event’s organizer, Pamela Geller, and her organization American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI). The article is quick to note that AFDI is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and has run other anti-Islam campaigns in the past. Several of Geller’s quotes were also included in the piece that highlighted views towards Islam that some would consider inflammatory or controversial at best. These quotes suggest Geller believes the West is virtually at war with Islam. In short, this article’s emphasis is placed almost exclusively on the negative perceptions of the event’s organizer.
Fox News online, which is known for having a much more conservative spin, also ran this story, but from a very different perspective. The article opens by stating the gunmen attacked an “art exhibit” and that the perpetrators’ car is suspected of containing explosives. The author also quickly highlights the similarities in tactics used in this attack to those use in the highly publicized attack on the headquarters of the satirical magazine Charlie Hedbo in Paris, France only a short time ago. The emphasis of this piece on almost completely on the attackers and their actions during the event. One last piece of information that was seemingly thrown in for good measure was a description of a group of attendees hoisting an American flag and singing “God Bless America” following the attack. One is left with a feeling that the group in attendance represents the very essence of what it means to be American.
This is the same story produced by two very different news sources that are choosing a specific set of facts to present to their readers. Does this style of journalism discredit these news organizations or are they simply aligning their perspectives to their known audience? Given the highly competitive environment in which these sources of news operate, this trend of media bias is only going to continue. Should readers learn to expect these biases in the U.S. media and if so, is the onus on him/her to scour the web and other sources to obtain a more complete picture of a given story?