This past Saturday, Hubster and I participated in our local March for Life downtown. Our school sends about 80 students to the national march in Washington, D.C., but this was my first march, even at the local level. Actually, I believe it was my first non-voting political event in which I’ve ever participated. It was a cold and rainy day, but several thousand people came out to show our support for life-promoting policies.
It was certainly one of the biggest events in town this weekend. I was excited to see a photo on the front page of our local paper, the Journal Gazette, but quite upset when I actually read the article. As my father noted, “Their bias is showing.”
So, as I do when with so many other things that tick me off, I turned it into an AP English lesson.
|We hung with the seminary contingent on the march
|Hubster and me leaving the warmth of the indoor rally
We talk a lot in AP English about how various rhetorical choices, such as word connotation to create style, can depict an author’s attitude toward their topic and have an effect on their argument. We’ve done this with a lot of persuasive pieces, but it is less often we compare two news sources which are [presumably] unbiased. I’m still trying to combat the “I saw this post on Twitter” version of current events research.
I first had them read the Journal Gazette’s coverage. It is an extremely short article and it appears the reporter did not attend the march; in fact, he did not even talk to someone who attended the march. He briefly quotes the keynote speaker, a 25-year-old woman named Kelsey Vander Vleit, who gave up her son for adoption after a failed abortion attempt. She spoke about the need to support mothers at all stages of their pregnancy AND postpartum, and currently works to increase care and support for birth moms. She also runs a blog called From Anotha Motha which is worth checking out.
The last third of his article is a response from the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky. I attended the rally and the march and Planned Parenthood was only mentioned as the abortion provider Vander Vleit went to; the march was not exclusively a PP protest, so including such a lengthy quote seemed like pretty biased reporting.
Obviously, I explained to my students, it is easier to find bias when you are looking at a view opposing one’s own, and I admitted to them much of my ire was personal. It is harder to see bad argument when it is a point you agree with. This being said, I cannot explain the video coverage. It is a one-minute montage of shots from the march with this truly bizarre soundtrack in the background, found on a royalty-free music site. No narration, not even audio correction for the windy day, just…this. Not even our freshman video arts students would do something so discordant to their subject matter.
Anyway, I needed something to offer comparison, so I pulled up the coverage from our other local paper, the News Sentinel, which recently switched to online-only publication. They published a significantly longer article with more points of view because the reporter actually attended the rally and march. My detective students identified this because the photo credits were the same name as the writer. They felt that the additional information, combined with the ethos of actually being there, made it a stronger article. The News Sentinel does play as a bit of a foil for the Journal Gazette, though I wouldn’t necessarily call it “conservative.” However, my students did get the point reinforced that WHERE they get their news is super important.
Click for Part Two of this lesson in my next post…