Sunday, February 24

It's Not Always What it Seems

Back in the 90's I spent a year studying at Temple University. Unfortunately, almost half of the fall semester was marred by a teacher strike. Across the street from my dorm was the church where the teacher union and administration held their negotiations. There were usually 25-50 students camped out in front of the church protesting with picket signs in hopes that they would somehow influence negotiations and bring a stop to the nonsense.

At one point, when it seemed like the teachers were on the brink of a deal, local television stations showed up at the church. I watched from the stoop of my dorm as the students, numbering maybe 50, enthusiastically picked up their picket signs and turned up the political banter for the cameras.

As a communications and journalism major, I received my first lesson in truth in journalism that night. The TV station aired the piece citing the facts of the proposed deal while showing footage of what they called a "mad mob of students." They went on to imply that half the student body had turned out to insure that their semester continue on schedule. There was only one problem: Temple had nearly 30,000 students attending at that time, so "half the student body" would mean that thousands of students were camped out in front of this Broad Street church clogging traffic.

Didn't happen.

To add credibility to their assertion, they had zoomed in on just the first three rows of students protesting on the church steps to make it look like a much larger crowd was present.

I'll never forget my naive shock at how the media had taken this small event and skewed the facts to make for a better story. Now whenever I see footage of "mad mobs" of people , I cynically wonder if there was really only a handful of people and some fancy camera angles.

Well, my trip down memory lane was sparked when I read this post Sallie linked to at Buried Treasure that points out how the blatant omission of facts by MSNBC made for a completely different outcome to Nevada's Republican Caucus. The New York Times didn't do much better.

Unfortunately, these are just a few examples of why you really have to be a vigilant consumer of news if you care at all about knowing the truth. Even if you don't care about Ron Paul as a candidate, you should be indignant about how that news was reported.

It just may be your candidate who is misrepresented next.



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