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Media Bias

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Detecting Media Bias
Joshua Davenport
HUM/114
June 21, 2012
Dr. Geneace Williams/University of Phoenix

Detecting Media Bias Part A The importance of making critical evaluations of news stories comes to play in the recent stories about the Trayvon Martin & George Zimmerman case. This is a story about a young black teenager and a neighborhood watchman that shot and killed the boy. Many news stations reported the story showing pictures of both of them that had been taken years prior to the actual event. Trayvon’s pictures showed him as an innocent boy and Zimmerman as upset and angry in a much earlier mug shot. The media shows bias to both these individuals and seemed to be concerned with sensationalism, rather than finding out the true facts in the case. The concern they showed at the time the story broke, appeared to be geared towards selling the story and building the story into a racially motivated incident. The news was not completely clear or accurate and the investigative methods were not sufficient in either depth or breadth. The stories promoted the idea that Trayvon was an innocent young black kid who just happened to be out late at night and that Zimmerman was just looking to act as judge, jury and executioner. The pictures of George Zimmerman seemed to promote prejudice and negative emotions from the audience. They used bias in the news by deliberately ignoring more current pictures of both these individuals. Many of the news channels seemed to deliberately ignore the truth of the story regarding what type of people both Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman were. A mug shot of a younger angry looking Zimmerman and a more recent picture shows Zimmerman in a dress coat and tie with him clearly smiling shows a distinct disregard for truthful reporting and bias in reporting. The news clearly chose to ignore any alternative perspectives in regards to this story. The stories focused on accusing Zimmerman of being an angry, trigger happy neighborhood watchman who took it upon himself to deliver justice without waiting for the police to show up. The story in the beginning did not bring out the facts in this story about the actual events of the night this incident occurred. The media had other pictures available, including one of Trayvon Martin in a gray hoodie which they chose to ignore because it possibly might have made him look more like a criminal. Another photo of Trayvon was one of a close up showing Trayvon wearing a rack of gold teeth, or a “grill” as they call it. Many people associate grills with rappers. However, many youth of today sport grills on their teeth. It doesn’t necessarily mean the wearers associate themselves with gangs. There have been many inaccuracies in the stories relating to this case and as time went on more and more of the truth came out. The stories in this case have had many questionable assumptions, including assumptions regarding Zimmerman’s role in the events the night of the shooting. The importance of being able to make distinctions when you undertake a critical evaluation is that the reader has to be able to distinguish between fact and sensationalism. Also recognizing when there is bias in a report and being able to see when a report is showing prejudice instead of getting only the facts in the story. Being able to critically evaluate a story depends on the reader being able to research on their own when it comes to a story and obtaining all the facts before deciding what to believe or not to believe. There are too many instances of bias in reporting today and it can be difficult to know what is true or not. We have to take it upon ourselves to be well informed in order to be able to distinguish between the facts or simply fictional story telling. We cannot be an active member of society and contribute effectively to society if we are not willing to take the initiative to find out what the truth is. Part B The Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman case is a very serious and bias case. I might use the strategies for applying creativity in this case by using availability heuristic. Availability heuristic is a mental shortcut that uses the ease with which examples come to mind to make judgment about the probability of events. This strategy would be effective because the easier it is to recall the consequences of something, the bigger we perceive these consequences to be. I would also use strategies for promoting curiosity in this case, like creating an inclusive environment. This strategy would be effective because it will make a special effort to use language that is unbiased, inclusive, and does not divide any one on the case unnecessarily. I might would use various methods for producing ideas to eliminate the bias from the original article and still present a factual and persuasive case. I would do that by using whatever diversity exists among Martin and Zimmerman to model inclusiveness.

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