What’s airing on Pro-Life Perspective Today? “Dealing with Media Inaccuracies,” Part 2
By Carol Tobias. NRLC President & Pro-Life Perspective Host
This week we’re looking at journalism and how media outlets function. Working with the news media is something we have to do in order to get our message out. But inaccuracies – whether by inserted by mistake or because of an overt bias against the right to life message–make it difficult to convey the truth through television, newspapers and radio.
Money is a tremendous motivating factor for news outlets. The amount that news organizations can charge for advertising is based on ratings. Ratings are an advertiser’s gauge as to how much their dollar will buy them in a particular medium and the way for a network or program to increase its value is by increasing its rating. So, in addition to deciding on what the facts are in any given story, it is important how they present the facts. Facts presented in an unexciting way will generate fewer viewers or readers. This costs the corporation money.
In addition, the number of media outlets has vastly increased in the past fifteen years, creating greater competition among them. Therefore, the news organization which releases information first and most interestingly becomes even more important.
For us, this can become a blessing and a curse. The more outlets there are and there are thousands, the more difficult it is to reach everyone. Yet, the more places we can disseminate our information, the greater the chance that someone will pick it up. For example, if there are only three news networks and only one picks up our information, we have missed perhaps two-thirds of network news viewers. But if there are 10 news networks and our information is aired on 5, we may have reached a larger percentage of network news viewers–even though 5 networks didn’t air our information.
Even though it is harder to be blacked out in the new era of news coverage, we do have to contend with an interesting problem: the “follow-the-leader” phenomenon. Often, though not always, a print reporter will break a news story, which appears in the morning paper. Next, network morning shows begin to air the story as reported in the paper, and begin to investigate it themselves. Then, news talk and evening news broadcasts begin to work on the story, and on it goes.
“Follow the leader” is more than just the reporting of the same story; it also has to do with the slant of the story–which often remains nearly identical throughout the course of the day. If the first groups quoted in the story are the NARAL Pro-Choice America the Centers for Disease Control, most of the other stories will quote the same sources–even though this may mean that the story is not balanced. It is difficult, though not impossible, to break into a story in the middle.
Often, breaking into the middle of a story means calling Associated Press reporters as well as the television networks. Our job is to convince them that their stories will only be balanced by having a second (or third or fourth) view in the story. In addition, if our spokesperson is quoted, we’ve given them someone new—a new face or name to quote. This means their stories are different from everyone else’s and “different” can translate into better ratings.
Keeping an eye out for inaccuracies or bias is something anyone of us can do. Tomorrow, I’ll be giving you some tips on what you can do to prevent bias or correct bias you may see in your own newspaper or on your local newscast.
The best way to spot inaccuracies and bias is to be very aware of the truth. To find out more and for additional information on the pro-life movement and the right to life, please be sure to visit our website at www.prolifeperspective.com.
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