A small data point on media ''bias''

From:    The_Doge
To:      All                                    Jan-07-94 07:57AM
Subject: A small data point on media "bias"

Organization: Nyx, Public Access Unix at U. of Denver Math/CS dept.
From: [email protected] (The_Doge)
Message-ID: <[email protected]>
Newsgroups: talk.abortion

       Don Porter provided this to myself and Jen Hoffman in e-mail,
with permission to post same.  I'm doing so because the article in
question, as transcribed by Don, provides no support for Ms. Hoffman's
claims of media bias, reproduced below.
      It is, of course, possible that the version of this wire service
material that Hoffman read in her local paper was slanted in a way that
the report in the _Post-Dispatch_ (a paper with a fairly liberal editorial
view, BTW) was not.  Since I haven't seen that version of the story, I
have no way of knowing whether or not this was the case.  At any rate,
it would seem to indicate that claims of national media bias in this
instance are unfounded, based on the available evidence.

================begin material from Don Porter======================
<[email protected]>, (Jen Hoffman) wrote:
>> And yet the recent shooting of an
>> abortionist (not Gunn or Tiller; someone in Mississippi, I think) was
>> covered nationwide and linked in the press to the pro-life movement even
>> after the police had ascertained that the shooting had nothing to do with
>> the man's abortion practice.

<[email protected]>, (The_Doge) wrote:
>     Really?  This is news to me.  You have some evidence to back this
> up, of course?

This story was reported on page 4A of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on
Monday, August 23, 1993.  The byline is "Compiled From News Services"
so I presume it was reported nationwide.  Several other news events
were happening near the same time.  Dr. George Tiller was shot outside
his abortion facility in Kansas.  An Alabama priest was getting a great
deal of publicity for his attempt to run an ad in a newspaper calling the
murder of abortion providers "justifiable homicide".  In such a climate,
some reporters might have been too quick to try to shoehorn this story into
fitting a pattern to illustrate a trend.  This is understandable since
journalists, especially in print, are no longer considered to be doing
a complete job if they report "just the facts, ma'am."  They are expected
to provide some level of analysis as well.  That may or may not be good,
but that's the way things are in journalism nawadays (if panels on C-SPAN
are to be believed).

The spin on this story might vary a great deal from paper to paper as well,
depending on what headline was used.  As I understand the business, the
stories come over the wire service, but the paper decides what the headline
should be, often based on reading just the first paragraph or two.  In the
story below, I think the Post-Dispatch did a good job of digging out a
fair headline.  The original author of the lead paragraph didn't do as well,
IMHO, emphasizing the connection of the murder victim to Dr. Gunn before
getting to the facts of the case, which might mislead a very casual
reader.

Anyhow, here's the story.  Typos are probably mine.  Sadly, the grammar
and punctuation is that in the original story.  I'll spare you the "sic"s:

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
ABORTION DOCTOR SLAIN; ROBBERY MAY BE MOTIVE
Compiled From News Services

MOBILE, Ala. --- An abortion doctor who worked with a physician slain
in Florida in March by an anti-abortion protester was himself fatally
shot, officials said Sunday.

Police said the physician, Dr. George Wayne Patterson, 44, was shot to
death when he confronted a man breaking into his car.  But they said they
did not know whether the killing was the result of a robbery or related
to Patterson's work.

Patterson was killed Saturday night when he returned to his 1993 Cadillac
Eldorado in a parking lot near a bar and an adult movie theater, in the
city's nightclub district.  No one was arrested.  "We're not sure it was
a robbery or what it was at this time," Allan Carpenter, a police
investigator, said Sunday.

The slaying did not appear to have any link to recent abortion clinic
shootings in Wichita, Kan., or Pensacola, Fla., authorities said.

Patterson was the owner of Pensacola Women's Medical Services in
Pensacola.  His colleague there, Dr. David Gunn, 47, was fatally shot
outside the abortion clinic in March as he arrived for work.  Michael
Griffin is scheduled to go on trial Sept. 20 on murder charges in
connection with Gunn's death.  Patterson also had worked at clinics in
Fort Walton Beach, Fla., and in Mobile, where arson damaged the clinic
in 1990.

On Friday, Rachelle "Shelley" Shannon, 37, of Grants Pass, Ore., was
charged with attempted murder in the shooting of Dr. George Tiller at
an abortion clinic in Wichita.  He was not seriously injured.

Patterson's slaying happened in an area where "quite a few robberies"
have occurred, Carpenter said.  Tom Mason, a businessman, told The
Mobile Register that two shots were fired.  Then, he said, the gunman
opened the door of the Cadillac and took something from inside.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hey, BTW, whatever happened to the trial of Michael Griffin?  September
was long ago, but I've heard nothing.

Don Porter
================end material from Don Porter==================