The Language of Media Bias

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The language used to describe an event or represent the position of an individual is important because it is the conduit that transmits an image of reality. Effective writers harness language in an amazing manner and provide readers an opportunity to gain knowledge and experience that would otherwise be unattainable.

However, terminology can be used fallaciously to weaken an opponents position, manipulate the opinion of readers or cast doubts and shadows on groups that would otherwise be viewed in a positive manner.

Quite often, pro-life proponents have expressed dissatisfaction with the representation given by media outlets to their position. While those who support that sanctity of human life are consistently reported using negative language, supporters of abortion are labeled with terms that evoke an impression of nobility.

In addition, the U.S. media, as compared to European news organizations, seems to have an aversion to calling an unborn child a "baby". Instead, American news reports hide the humanity of the unborn behind the mask of more sterile medical jargon.

Recently, an industry insider who works for a well-known media outlet sent me the guidelines used by his company to report on abortion:

Guidelines regarding stories and headlines on abortion:

  1. Call those who oppose abortions abortion foes or abortion opponents or (in tight-count heads) abort foes. Avoid the phrases pro-life or pro-lifers, except in direct quotations.
  2. Those who favor a woman's right to an abortion are abortion rights activists or pro- abortion rights or pro-choice. Avoid pro-abortion.
  3. Also avoid the phrase ``when the life of the mother is at stake.'' Make it ``... life of the woman ...'' Don't call the fetus an unborn child, and don't refer to the unborn in headlines.
  4. You can use abortion clinic or abort clinic in tight-count headlines.
  5. Columnists have free rein in choosing their own terms to describe the issue.
Note the discrimination against the label "pro-life" while "pro-choice" is listed as an appropriate designation for "those who favor abortion". Remarkably, a pregnant woman should not be called a "mother", according to this guideline and an unborn child must not be represented as such.

All reporters and media outlets are biased. Some are honest and forthright about their basis for interpreting news and reporting events while others hold fast to the illusion of objectivity.

2 Comments

I wish we were called "fetal rights advocates". You can't argue with that terminology.

"fetal rights advocates"

I like that.


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