28 January 2009

Media Bias Hits Home

Apparently the media cheerleading for the left has hit campus newspapers as well. On Monday, the pro-life group at my university hosted a Silent No More Awareness Campaign. The group invited the campus paper, The Sheaf, to cover the story, which they did. You can read their article here.

*** IMPORTANT NOTE FROM BLOG AUTHOR: Before I go any further, I suppose I should make it clear that I am a member of the campus pro-life group, but I will do my best to give fair, unbiased coverage about the facts. Also note that this post is going to be something of a rant because I am seriously annoyed. My apologies in advance. ***

(See, at least I'm honest about my bias upfront. The rest of the media could learn something from that.)

Despite giving half a page to the story, the coverage of the actual presentation is one sentence. "They [Silent No More] have a group of women who have had abortions tell their stories and explain why they regret that decision." So, here is my (relatively) unbiased news coverage of the event.

On January 26, 2009 the U of S Students for Life (USSL) hosted a group called Silent No More on campus. This group spent the day with a table set up in the Arts Tunnel. The display featured large signs which read "I regret my abortion." A group of 6 women from Silent No More presented their personal story and experience of abortion at 12pm and 4pm that day in a classroom in the Arts building. These testimonies included the women giving the reason they had their abortion, the physical, mental and spiritual harm they suffered as a result of that abortion. Before the women began giving their testimony, the spokeswoman for the group outlined the history of Silent No More and its chief goals and aims; the most important being that women who suffer from Post Abortion Syndrome can find help. At the end of the presentation, the spokeswoman offered the names and contact information for groups that help women to heal from abortion. Several of the women who gave their story testified to the help they found at a retreat known as Rachel's Vineyard. Attendance at the 12pm presentation was approximately 12 individuals. At 4pm, upwards of 40 individuals filled the classroom to hear the presentation.

There, is it so hard to give an unbiased version of events? When you are putting the story on page 2, in the news section, I would expect it to be a news story, not an editorial. Of course papers are free to editorialize; in fact the editorial pages of newspapers tend to be my favorite pages, but you need to make it clear to others when you are editorializing and when you are setting out the facts of an event that happened.

*** IMPORTANT NOTE FROM BLOG AUTHOR: I will now begin to editorialize and do not claim to be unbiased in the following paragraphs ***

The rest of the Sheaf's article rehashes a story they ran a few weeks ago, and not surprisingly gets the facts wrong. For example they state that those who attended the noon presentation were either pro-choice women from the Women's Centre or "directly involved with Silent No More or related to the presenters." I was at the noon presentation, and my recollection is that there were 2 people from the USSL, 2 women not involved with Silent No More or the USSL, the daughter of one presenter, the 4 women from the Women's Centre, 2 people from the Sheaf and 3 other people I did not know, plus the 6 women involved in the presentation.

But, more to the point, why does who attended matter? And, if counting attendees was so important to the story, why did they not come back to the 4pm presentation; the one that occurred after classes were over for the day, and note that over 40 people attended, none of whom were involved in the presentation or related to those giving the presentation? Oh, I know, because that would take away from the spin they are trying to subtly put on the article.

They also manage to work in the fact that Silent No More is affiliated with Anglicans for Life. What purpose is served by noting that? I'm surprised actually that they didn't note that it is also affiliated with Priests for Life, which is, at least in the politically correct world a far more damning connection. Who cares who they are affiliated with unless you are trying to connect them with that radical and dangerous group known as Christians- After all, as everyone knows, all pro-lifers are motivated by religious ideals and couldn't possibly be speaking from a scientific or intellectual perspective.

And, the "fact" that annoys me most is the assertion that the USSL failed to attend a meeting set up on December 5. That makes the USSL look like they have something to hide now doesn't it. I agree it would merit publication, except for the fact that it isn't true. No meeting was set up for December 5 that the USSL had any knowledge of (and I have the e-mails to prove that statement if anyone cares to read them). While I may not be a lawyer yet, I did study the tort of libel in first year law. The Sheaf is getting awfully close with some of the stuff they are publishing. (I keep decrying the lack of practical hands on experience in law school; maybe I should take this on…)

I also find it interesting that a formal harassment complaint has been made against the USSL. Again, to my knowledge no one has made a formal complaint; in fact, just yesterday I was told on the record that no formal process had yet begun. Again, getting very close to libel.

My point in this rant, which may have escaped you due to it's length, is that once again the "free press" has proven itself to be neither unbiased nor too concerned with actually reporting the news. Spinning things to go your way is much more fun apparently. At least other papers have the excuse (such as it is) that they are trying to sell papers, and sensationalization sells. The Sheaf has no such excuse- all U of S students pay a fee that goes directly to The Sheaf, and the paper is freely distributed on campus. That's right- I'm paying to have this publication publish facts that they spin and outright lie about. Doesn't that just take the cake.

(I will likely be blogging more on this topic as it develops. Comment if you don't want to hear more, otherwise you will hear more.)

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