This is Joshua Wehner's archaic Blog

On coverage

From CJR:

That shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, since coverage of the Schiavo case has consistently skewed toward the emotional over the factual. And that has been to the advantage for those who want Schiavo kept alive. Most stories feature dueling quotes from Schiavo's media-savvy parents and her embattled husband, people whose anger over a difficult and emotional issue have been elevated to a national stage. More often than not, the tearful parents get top billing. Then there are the dueling quotes from grandstanding lawmakers, with Republicans far more vocal and emotional in their appeals than skittish Democrats. (Typical is this comment by Tom DeLay: "Mrs. Schiavo's life is not slipping away — it is being violently wrenched from her body in an act of medical terrorism.") And, of course, there's the heartbreaking photo of Schiavo that has graced many of the Web stories on the case, including those of CNN, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. It shows Schiavo seeming to smile as she receives a kiss from her mother. (According to Schiavo's doctors, it's unlikely that her facial expressions reflect actual feeling.) The choice by news organizations to focus on this one photo from among the many available speaks to their priorities. Those who side with Schiavo's husband and the Florida courts might blame political bias for the choice of photo and the prominence of Schivo's parents — but the harsh truth is that news organizations simply want eyeballs, and the best way to get them is to tug at readers' and viewers' heartstrings.


But journalists should at least make an effort to cut through the sensationalism and provide some context. We should hear more about the Futile Care Law, and news outlets should think twice before basing coverage on which side plucked the most heartstrings on any given day. With its performance to date in the Schiavo case, the press is displaying a tell-tale tendency for tabloid-style exploitation in the guise of serious reporting.

Permalink • Posted in: journalism, news, politicsComments (2)


Sal D'Agostino Apr 1, 2005

Isn't it so interesting how Americans become involved in an issue these days? What makes this entire process so disheartening is that a few weeks from now, so many will have forgotten about Terri and about this fight, and we will move on again to wondering if Britney Spears is actually pregnant, or if Jennifer Lopez is doing well in her new marriage. And how easy is it for those in Washington to leech onto an issue which some feel could be "tough" for their opposing political party. What a complete joke. Does anyone actually care about the FACTS of the case? Does anyone realize that this poor woman has actually been in this state since 1990? Where have they been the last 15 years exactly?

I turned to my wife tonight and told her flat out that if I ever was in the state which Terri was in, I would like her to let me go. That is my choice, and since I have dedicated my life to her, I believe in my heart that is all I need to do. It is no one else's business...

but then again no one asked for my opinion.

Josh Apr 1, 2005

Yeah. Liz and I had a similar talk. I haven't talked to my parents, or brothers, about it yet. It seems to impersonal to do over the phone.

I've thought about it, and I think what I would basically say is: I don't think I want to be in that state, if it came to that, but if it did, whoever has the unfortunate luck to be my next of kin on that day, you had gosh darn better respect them. It's an unimaginably difficult decision that person makes, it would be such a nightmare to lack your family's support on that.

Oh, and what hypocrisy on "sanctity of marriage". Hah!