WTO coverage conveys media bias

News coverage is supposed to report the facts and omit personal opinion. However, the vast majority of reporters covering the recent protests in Seattle betrayed biases against the protesters and in favor of the World Trade Organization. The bias was reflected in a number of ways in the stories that were written for newspapers, radio and television.
Coverage of the protests frequently used words such as “mar” or “tarnish” to describe the effect the demonstrators had on the WTO’s meeting. These word choices suggest the protesters were acting inappropriately by exercising their Constitutional rights to assemble and speak. It is just as easy to write the facts of the protests without resorting to emotional language that colors readers’ and listeners’ perceptions of what actually occurred.
Articles describing the protests also devoted little or no space to describing the nature of the protesters’ concerns, but almost uniformly gave space to those in support of the WTO in order to air their beliefs. Many reports simply stated there was a large number of protesters, but did not pause to ask what issue was so important that tens of thousands of individuals felt compelled to take a week out of their lives to journey to Seattle. This key omission is a betrayal of journalistic duty. Not covering the reasons behind the protests keeps readers uninformed and also gives supporters of the WTO a double boon — not only do supporters get their stances covered, but they appear to be the only side that has any logical reasons bolstering their opinions.
Additionally, once the demonstrations became violent, newspapers were quick to report that violence had occurred, but were slow to point out that out of tens of thousands, only a few dozen people were actively participating in violent acts. While it has become the sad truth that the media is quick to cover anything involving violence, the coverage made it appear as if the protests were all violent, rather than the truth, which was quite the opposite. While there were a few individuals who caused a great amount of damage and trouble, the vast majority of the protesters were strongly committed to the principles of nonviolence, which was reflected in their actions.
The only section of a paper that should reflect a stand one way or the other is the editorial page. When basic news stories begin to color the facts by using emotional language or by omission of important background details, the public suffers. A public that is not able to trust the information provided by the media has a difficult time forming opinions about important issues. Media bias might also be reflected in a public that simply ignores current events in an attempt to avoid what is perceived as inappropriate editorializing in news stories.
Certainly it is not the responsibility of reporters to write articles that support the protesters. However, it is the responsibility of those who report the news to take great care that their writing does not bias readers one way or the other, particularly when writing about an issue as emotional as the WTO protests.