View Full Version : Biased reporting
10-29-2007, 02:15 PM
Recently, MSNBC covered a study that was done by Margaret Babbitt, a researcher at the University of Utah, in which she argues that there is no "slippery slope" threat attached to the legalization of euthanasia. This article, however, leaves out the fact that Babbit has been a euthanasia advocate for twenty five years and has articulated the position that people may, at one point, have a duty to die in order to distribute resources fairly. MSNBC does not seem to feel that this is important to mention. More importantly, the caption under the title "experts say" connotes the impression that this study solves the question once and for all-that all experts everywhere are in agreement. The article did not balance their coverage by contrasting these findings with studies that do support the legitimacy of slippery slope concerns.
This is the MSNBC article:
This is Wesley J. Smith's Response:
(Wesley J. Smith has written two excellent books about euthanasia from a non religious standpoint and is a lawyer for the anti euthanasia task force.)
This is why I watch people like Bill O Reilly: Because the more liberal news media and civil rights organizations seem to ignore threats to the disabled community. I don't know that I would consider Bill a huge help to the disability community, but at least he and other conservatives are opposed to this practice's implications for the country's ethical climate and point out the bias that exists in the mainstream news media. They, themselves may have just as much bias, but there aren't enough voices from the liberal side pointing out mainstream media bias, which can be a significant problem when it comes down to life and death issues. In short, disabled people have to align themselves with those who will actually protect their interests, and if the more liberal news media isn't going to do that, than we will be forced to rely on the more conservative faction of the cultural arena. It won't matter WHY the conservative people are against the same things...it will ultimately come down to a matter of who supports what and how that impacts the disability community.
Personally, I am now boycotting MSNBC news, except for what I read online. Period. I am not going to watch them if they are not going to give the whole study about something that could lead to the legally sanctioned deaths of vulnerable people. If they become more balanced, then I might start watching them again.
10-29-2007, 10:22 PM
First off, I'm by NO means defending the story. I will say, however, that media reporting on ANY scientific (or "scientific", sometimes) research always sucks golfballs through a garden hose. They pretty much don't really care about what the study actually tells you, they want the ear-catching soundbite. This has actually been a pet-peeve of mine for a VERY long time.
The "experts" thing...did you catch the Bill-O segment on lesbian gangs? They had an "expert" who they didn't even tell you what made him an "expert" saying utterly ridiculous things. What I"m trying to say is: Billo does ALL the same things, except on different stories. I will not tell you who you should or should not align yourself with, but I will say that you are being used and you should know that. The moment disability issues stop being useful to make a larger political/moral (yeesh those two words shouldn't have to be mashed together like that!) statement, I think you'll see an awful lot less coverage.
10-29-2007, 11:12 PM
I agree Alecto-we're being used-by MSNBC to make a political point that could hurt us, because they aren't telling the whole story regarding the legalization of a very serious issue that could lead to killing the vulnerable and which their previous coverage indicates that they support. For the disabled, one of the problems in the whole conservative vs. liberal ally issue, however, is that the "conservative" position (which really is a misnomer, since many people who are otherwise liberal hold this principle): that all human life is equal and/or sacred: is generally paramount to preserving the lives and well being of the disabled, whether you take that position from a religious or secular standpoint. Otherwise, life is fit to be disposed with as the individual or society sees fit.
I shouldn't have brought Bill O Reilly into the discussion at all as it skews the point of what I was geting at. I wouldn't excuse this report based on the scientific community's tendency to take one or the other position: it is the media's responsibility to report things accurately. So, when people get upset about what OReilly did on lesbian gangs, but don't get upset about what MSNBC just did with the euthanasia study, I get very concerned. My point in all of this isn't that O Reilly is less biased, it is that OReilly often covers stories that the mainstream media ignores, thus, if I want to know about those things, I have to watch him or rely on info from the online community. I wouldn't take O Reilly's word on a lot of things, including many LGBT issues. But, if the mainstream media stopped stereotyping the disabled and constantly putting us in jeapordy, then O Reilly's reports would become less unique and I could actually choose who to watch in order to be aware of certain stories.
Now, on the other hand, I've rarely seen Bill cover things from the disability community, and didn't like how he referenced the Schiavo case in his latest book at all. In talking about having what he feels is an unbiased perspective, he basically says that he doesn't hold conservative opinions on every issue, for instance, he cites, "I sided with the Florida judge during the Schiavo mess." I'm thinking: That's lovely, Bill. You didn't even include the judge's name. Thank you for using Terri's "mess" as a postscript to show how unbiased you are and buying into the impression that conservatives were the only ones who opposed her dehydration, thus ignoring the disability aspects of the case and showing it back into the conservative vs. secular arena, where it doesn't belong."
It has only been during major controversies...such as the Schiavo case...that I've seen him address it, and it was generally in a secular vs. conservative context. So, he is actually guilty of the same tendency to ignore stories that impact the disability community, evidenced, for instance, by the fact that he didn't go after MSNBC's dangerous bias in this story. If he really were appropriately concerned about how this issue impacted the disabled community, he would be out there with his guns blazing, esp. since MSNBC is his the network that he feels is the most wacked. Everyone has an agenda, so I'm not naive in realizing that this particular issue is related to his personal and ideological ideals. But, if the liberal community isn't going to speak up on behalf of the disabled, then you can have them. Let me put it this way: if I were drowning in a pond and someone dove in to save me, my primary focus would be on their efforts to save me-not on why they were trying to save me. In other words, MSNBC is welcome to dive into the lake whenever its ready, but the disabled community can't wait for them.
I also saw the lesbian gang report. It also constituted erroneous, biased reporting up there with MSNBC. My point is that both story coverages were very, very bad.
Note: Please don't use this thread to discuss Terri Schiavo's situation in detail, which is dealt with on other threads and distracts from the issue of media bias and disabilities that this thread is supposed to focus on.
10-29-2007, 11:37 PM
I would just stop watching network news altogether. It's a load of tripe. I watch BBC World News if I'm going to watch anything, but generally I avoid the idiot box, unless The Simpsons is on. I flip that thing on to be entertained. Credible news won't be found there.
10-29-2007, 11:51 PM
I think you've got it right. :)
10-30-2007, 12:12 AM
And here we all agree.
Some of the "news" shows DO happen to entertain me as well, but I don't kid myself that they're unbiased. At BEST they're out to make the most money. At best. Once you get into who owns which networks, and what other companies they own...things start to look very, VERY bleak.
11-04-2007, 05:05 PM
This is an email that I recently sent to MSNBC about another article that they did:
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Date: Sun, 4 Nov 2007 12:46:29 -0800 (PST)
From: "SAFE nonprofit" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Add to Address Book Add Mobile Alert
Subject: Autism Labeling Article
I am writing because your recent article on autism spectrum disorder, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21600784/, is inaccurate: milder forms of autism include not only Asbergers and PDD not otherwise specified, but also Nonverbal Learning Disorder, something that is similar to Asbergers with different features. You also wrote that, "The development of new stimulants and other medicines may have encouraged doctors to make diagnoses with the idea of treating them with these drugs." This is completely false, as there are currently no medications to treat autism spectrum disorders. This indicates that the writer and researchers involved in this article either got inaccurate information from somewhere, or that this statement was an extrapolation based on their own understanding of how attention deficit disorders, mood disorders and obsessive compulsive disorders are treated.
Moreover, the phraseology used in respect children being diagnosed with these disorders as special education services increase is inappropriate. Calling such a diagnosis "a 'ticket' to a larger range of school services and accommodations," which evokes imagery of someone getting a great deal on tickts for a rock concert. The kind of language, even if unintentional, feeds into the widespread cultural assumption that people have or will begin fabricating these disorders in order to get special privledges for their children who are nondisabled. This is one of the most virulent myths that harms learning disabled individuals by making people question the validity of thier handicaps and withhold needed accommodations. Plese do better research on this topic the next time you report on autism spectrum disorders and other disability issues.
I say this, moreover, because your article on a recent study that claims that there is no correlation between the legalization of euthanasia and the slippery slope argument you failed to mention the studier's history with the right to die movement or to provide adequate information on researchers whose work contradicts the results of this study. This lack of coverage makes it impossible for your readers to access both sides of that issue through your coverage, and, from that, determine their position on this issue.
It is clear that people with severe disabilities and the elderly are the most vulnerable to requesting euthanasia. In the Netherlands, for instance, people have been killed without their consent, which has been attested to by several pro euthanasia doctors in that country who openly admit to doing this themselves. People suffering from eating disorders and depression have also been euthanized at their request, without attempt by those involved to alleviate the individuals' immediate suffering through other means, such as getting additional psychological screening or adapting that person's environment to his needs. Moreover, in Oregon, rationed medicaid covers euthanasia as a form of "comfort care" but will not cover late term treatments for many disorders. This puts financial strain on those who need such treatments and encourages them to resort to euthanasia.
It is also a fact that only six medical schools require their students to take coursework in hospice care and pain management, which means that patients who are the most vulnerable to severe pain, such as those suffering from cancer, rheutmatoid arthritis, and other injuries, suffer because their doctors haven't been trained to use pain control effectively, which is the fault of medical school curriculums across the country.
When you leave out these facts, you send the message that your network does not value disabled people on the same level as other people groups and that you have not seriously considered services for the disabled as diversity/equality issues with a broad cultural impact, or the fact that people with disabilities constitute a minority group with its own culture and heritage. I sincerely hope that your coverage on such issues will improve in its depth and balance.
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