Journalism Student Shapes Narrative, Promotes Abortion
October 16, 2014
Jillian Martinez has an interesting report on a ballot initiative in Colorado. She makes sure to give some of the factual background and to quote both proponents and opponents about their views on Amendment 67, but that doesn’t prevent her from shaping the narrative in more and less subtle ways.
- Before the piece begins, the headline over it frames the issue: “Personhood amendment resurfaces and deceives”. (The issue is the amendment—not the underlying issue that it seeks to address—and the amendment “deceives”.)
- Framing it at the other end, the last sentence of the piece (before the expanded quotes from students) is “And, if passed, the 2.6 million women in Colorado would face the harshest gender restrictions in the country.” (It’s not a pro-life reform; it’s a “harsh” “gender restriction”.)
- She interviews some students to get a “man on the street”-type perspective, but two out of the three that she gives us oppose Amendment 67 (their opinions range from “No” to “Nooo!”), and the remaining student takes a moderate position—she “would be in favor of passing Amendment 67 but sees the inconsistency with the bill.”
- The author also uses other language in the piece to make it clear what impression the reader should get and what conclusion the reader should come to, such as “Reddix isn’t the only DU student who thinks Colorado’s latest attempt at defining ‘personhood’ is a chaotic mess.”
The concept of the blog that ran Miss Martinez’s story is an interesting one: Its purpose is to publish the work of journalism students at the University of Denver. (It calls itself The Fall 2014 MFJS Reporter: An online publication of University of Denver Students in MFJS 2140: Newswriting & Reporting.)
Miss Martinez seems to be learning the craft well, writing a perfectly reasonable-sounding news story, but that doesn’t prevent her from shaping the narrative to suit her purposes.
I remember when I was in college and worked for the student newspaper. A student who was a supervisor or senior reporter above me was surprisingly open about his dream of graduating, working for mainstream newspapers, and using his writing to shape the narrative and influence the public. He explained that he couldn’t simply say, in a straight news story, “I think…” and give his own opinions in the first person, but that he could easily accomplish the same thing simply by doing “man on the street” interviews until he got ones that gave him the quotes he wanted, and then printing those. It gets around the editorial rules, and probably actually makes for more persuasive propaganda, because the reader may come away with impressions and conclusions that he feels he came to on his own.
We know that the people who work in the news media are overwhelmingly liberal; this example of persuasive writing in action reminds us why and how that makes a difference.
Memorably, Mark Steyn also has some hilarious (if gross) reflections on getting a journalism degree (no, seriously, fair warning, it’s gross).