Analysis: sniffing out media bias

Some media bias is easy to identify because the facts are simply wrong. But there’s another kind of media bias that is more insidious and subtle. Much like an optical illusion, it’s designed to make you see stuff that isn’t there and that they never said. Words are weaved together such that nothing said is false, but it’s stitched in such a way that the sleepy reader comes out with the misleading message that they want you to believe.

Let me give you a concrete example. It dates back to last August when Cardinal Ouellet was having his farewell Mass before going off to his new position in Rome. The wording in this CBC article is the slickest I’ve seen in a long time.

The article was really short. Just six sentences. I’ve copied the whole thing below.

Cardinal Ouellet gives farewell sermon

A controversial Roman Catholic priest extended an olive branch during his last sermon in Canada before leaving for his new job in Rome.

Marc Cardinal Ouellet offered an apology to his “brothers and sisters” Sunday during a farewell ceremony in the Basilica St. Anne de BeauprĂ©, east of Quebec City.

In his homily, the cardinal said he was aware people have been hurt by some of his statements.

The outspoken Ouellet has come under fire for recent comments that included describing abortion as a moral crime even when it’s performed on a rape victim.

In June, Ouellet was named chief of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, a committee that vets bishop appointments around the world.

He will be leaving his post as archbishop of Quebec and Roman Catholic primate of Canada, the church’s top official in the country. (Source)

This was a skilled piece of work. I’ve highlighted three paragraphs in red where all the action takes place.

The first red paragraph says he apologized in his homily. The second paragraph talks about people that may have been hurt by his statements. Finally, the third line recalls how Cardinal Ouellet was very outspoken about abortion, even in the case of rape.

When you read the article quickly, without paying close attention, you might come away thinking that the Cardinal was apologizing for having spoken out forcefully against abortion, especially when rape is involved. The truth is, he never apologized for his statements on abortion. Nor should he. Of course, when you read the article a second time, the journalist never said what the Cardinal was apologizing for, so you can’t really accuse the journalist of lying. The writer simply put two propositions side by side in the order of a logical progression to make you believe that the apology and his statements about abortion were the linked.

This journalist is a smooth operator.

The apology most likely refers to comments made by the Cardinal back in 2007 when he spoke of the past sins of the Church in Québec. They caused quite a public uproar at the time.

Bottom line: as I’ve said before, never trust the mainstream media for any news regarding Catholic matters. Always double-check with a trusted Catholic source.

2 thoughts on “Analysis: sniffing out media bias

  1. Another example was the recent story on the catholic confession app available from Apples app store. It basically did the same thing as any number of books published for centuries to help a catholic examine their conscience. It was reported as a new way to go to confession electronically without a priest and much was made of the vast amounts of money the church stood to make from it ignoring the fact it was created by a private app developer that would receive all funds. Barely any media outlet got this story right.

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