Reporters and news organizations make strategic and business-minded decisions about how to report events on print and digital media platforms. In the following activities, you examine differences in coverage of the 2016 Hong Kong Protests and then you act as a reporter and create or remix the news.
Print and television news reporters make multiple decisions about how they report the events they are covering, including who to interview, which perspective to present, which camera angles to use for capturing footage, and which audio to record. These decisions structure how viewers think about the causes and consequences of events.
An Historical Example
Historian Rick Perlstein (2020) described how, during the beginning of the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1979, ABC News vaulted to the top of the TV news show ratings with its late night broadcasts of "America Held Hostage: The Crisis in Iran" (the show that would soon be renamed Nightline). The network focused on showing images of a burning American flag, embassy employees in blindfolds, Uncle Sam hanged in effigy, and increasingly more people watched the broadcast. Perlstein (2020) noted, "the images slotted effortlessly into the long-gathering narrative of American malaise, humiliation, and failed leadership" (p. 649) - themes Ronald Reagan would capitalize on during his successful 1980 Presidential campaign.
Is There a Bad News Bias?
Does U.S. media have a "bad news bias?" Researchers including Dartmouth College economics professor Bruce Sacerdote say "yes," at least in terms of its coverage of the Covid pandemic during 2020 and 2021 (The New York Times, April 22, 2022). Examining news coverage from CNN, Fox News, the New York Times, and social media, researchers found that coverage in the U.S. unlike news outlets in other countries, was more heavily negative, emphasizing rising cases and downplaying the impacts of vaccines. The social scientists concluded that news organizations were giving readers and viewers what they want, and that is more negativity rather positivity in stories; a bad news bias.
Do you find a bad news bias in the media you read or watch? Are some topics covered more negatively or positively than others?
Activity 1: Evaluate How Reporters Covered the 2016 Hong Kong Protests