Monday, January 22, 2007

Bias at 11

Bias - "to influence in a particular, typically unfair direction"

Analysis of three television news reports on January 19, 2006, at 11pm. The story covered was the January 19 demonstration at the Bay of Pigs memorial calling for the release of Luis Posada Carriles, which was planned from noon to 6pm.

None of the reporters stated that the members of the Bolivarian Youth (counter-demonstrators) were attacked, even after the video clearly shows that they were. Instead, the reporters used words like "feet start flying" and "the screaming and hitting... became the main story" to imply that BOTH sides engaged in violence. This is inaccurate. None of the reporters make efforts to identify those that initiated the attack.


That evening, I noticed only three local stations had produced a story for the 11pm news concerning the demonstration: Noticias23(Univision), CBS4 News, and Telemundo51. It looks like NBC6, WSVN7(FOX), and Local10(ABC) news did not cover the story, it does not appear on their respective websites. I did not check to see if MegaTV or America Teve covered the demonstration that evening, but their websites do not show the story.

NOTICIAS 23 (Univision)

Gloria Ordaz reports with a basic description of a peaceful protest which is then disrupted by violence. Ordaz includes the video of the attack (same video from CBS4) but doesn't identify who attacked, and does not include narration during the video. Ordaz interviews Miguel Saavedra, leader of Vigilia Mambisa, for his side of the story. Saavedra says: "they [counter-demonstrators] offended us... they provoked us." Ordaz also interviews local activist Ramon Saul Sanchez, member of the Movimiento Democracia, who appropriately describes the attack: "This is what occurs in Cuba."


Claudinne Caro spends more time on the "peaceful" demonstration and Carriles, and briefly mentions the attack. She also does not identify the attackers, but even more, she does not include the video of the attack as part of her story. Instead, like Ordaz, Caro gets a description of events from Miguel Saavedra. Saavedra says that a fight did take place, but doesn't say who started. Interestingly, Saavedra's recollections are suspicious. He says that the counter-demonstrators held up a sign that said "abajo terrorismo, abajo Posada Carriles, terrorista" (down with terrorism, down with Posada Carriles, terrorist). The sign actually said: "Terroristas a la Carcel" (Terrorists go to jail). I suspect Saavedra was too angry to care what the sign really meant, or was trying to justify his own violent actions.


Evan Bacon also begins with a standard description of a peaceful demonstration interrupted by violence. Bacon includes the video of the attack, in which Bacon provides narration and identifies Saavedra as part of the violence, but never identifies who started the fight. Oddly, Bacon DOES use the word "attack"(twice!), BUT for his online story, not for broadcast. Online, Bacon reports: "the Posada supporters... started attacking" and "the Posada demonstrators... began attacking." The 11pm story and the online story are of very different tones.

None of the three 11pm stories use the word "attack", or identify who initiated the fight, despite the fact that there is video evidence showing who did. Two reports use Miguel Saavedra's description of events, and make no effort to get an opposing viewpoint from several eyewitnesses. All stories inaccurately describe the violence with ambiguity, suggesting equal violence from both sides. Yet another lesson of local media bias concerning the issue of Cuba.

The issue of Cuba is perhaps the most influential and controversial in South Florida. The local media should be reporting, to their best efforts, any story that may have a large impact on the community. The case of Luis Posada Carriles should be covered intensely for reasons that he may be released some day, in spite of international condemnation of his history. The social consequences could be grave, locally, nationally and internationally.

Concerning Carriles, the local media, to my recollection, have not interviewed any serious source that clearly labels Luis Posada Carriles as a terrorist. Local reporters only skim the evidence, and prefer interviews with Carriles supporters.

Concerning the Bolivarian Youth, yesterday on MY33 news and today in the Miami Herald, they finally are being identified as the victims of the attack. Why weren't they identified as victims on the 19th, at 11pm after the video had already circulated?

Why did Ordaz and Caro settle on ONE side of the story? Isn't this a break with basic journalist principles?

Why were reporters, at 11pm, describing the fight with ambiguity? Why did Evan Bacon use the word "attack" online instead?

For those familiar with the political environment here in South Florida, the answer to these questions may be obvious.

Local reporters need to be more courageous.


bryan said...

As long as the Cuban Exile groups hold sway of politics in Miami this will never change. The news stations know very well who their audience is, Cubans. To lose that constituency would mean bad ratings. I believe that once the older exiles start dwindling because of age the younger more progressive leaders will have a stronger voice. And when that happen s local media will become more moderate in their coverage.

Mambi_Watch said...

I agree.

There will be other factors at play too in the future, not just a passing of a generation.

But, the generation factor doesn't mean we should wait. Neither does political influence. This rule is true when such factors lead to criminal actions that are unjustified.

Ask yourself: for how much longer do I have to keep biting my tongue on abuses of power?