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Local vs. National Coverage of Events
News events that happen in the Plains may be portrayed differently in Plains news media than in national news media. Conversely, Plains media may potray national events differently as opposed to national media. To demonstrate this phenomena, I have looked at three case studies: the Joplin, MO tornado; the 2012 presidential election results; and the Oklahoma City bombing disaster relief fund.
Joplin, MO tornado
On On May 22, 2011, a tornado struck Joplin, MO. The Kansas City Star reported it the next day. Here’s how:
The paper’s article is titled “Storm’s toll shows on the faces of Joplin residents.” It begins by saying that “The images [the tornado] left behind will stick with people for the rest of their lives. Not just the denuded trees, or the buildings twisted or turned to rubble...It’s the faces of people, loved ones and strangers.” Like this statement, the whole piece is very people-oriented. Early on the article reports the numbers of those injured, dead, or missing due to the storm, and only briefly mentions the physical damage to the city before moving on to describing where several interviewees were and what they were doing when the storm hit, and what happened to their loved ones. The article then quotes Missouri governor Jay Nixon, who said, “the houses will be built back, but the lives lost here we’ll remember forever.” The entire article reflects its person-focused title.
The article can be found at http://www.kansascity.com/2011/05/23/2898285/storms-toll-shows-on-the-citys.html#storylink=misearch.
ABC News also reported the disaster on their show Nightline. Here is their take on it:
The reporter, standing before a pile of rubble, starts the video segment by describing the “ominous experience” that was the “blasted landscape” of Joplin. Much of the beginning of the video is a long description of the damage and wreckage of the “devastated community” in “utter chaos.” There is footage of people running for cover, and interviewees describe the storm and its destruction. There is extensive footage of debris all around, and volunteers looking for victims.
After this very disaster-oriented report, the video concludes with a reflection on how “close-knit” the town is. According to one interviewee, “We are Missourians, we take care of our own.” The report concluded with the journalist saying that “this happened in their backyard,” and “these are their brothers and sisters.” Unlike the Kansas City Star’s report, ABC focuses more on the storm and its wreckage before ending with a somewhat stereotypical “Midwesterners stick together” sentiment.
The video can be watched at http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/video/direct-hit-13671695.
The differences in reporting the disaster are probably due to audience: the Star, being from Missouri, was likely catering to a readership with a personal investment in the story, hence the concentration on people. Nightline, however, having a national viewership, was more likely operating under a "If it bleeds it leads" mode of journalism.
2012 Presidential election results
Many news media announced the 2012 presidential election results the morning after the election, March 7. Here is how the Chicago Tribune reported Obama’s win:
The article begins with Romney “conceding” to Obama, and reports that Romney called Obama to congratulate him. According to the Tribune, Obama won “despite weak economic recovery and stubbornly high unemployment that dogged his campaign.” The short article quotes Romney twice, and doesn’t quote Obama at all. It also mentions Romney’s campaign promise to recover the economy (this follows the less-than-subtle criticism of the economy under Obama). The article is obviously biased towards Romney. Even the title, “Romney concedes presidential election to Obama,” reflects this, by focusing on Romney losing rather than Obama winning.
The article can be read at http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-11-07/news/sns-rt-us-usa-campaign-president-concessionbre8a60ma-20121106_1_romney-campaign-republican-mitt-romney-presidential-election.
U.S. News and World Report’s article, “Obama Wins a Second Term With a Strong Ground Game,” takes the opposite approach to the Chicago Tribune.
Instead of Romney “conceding,” the article says that Obama “defeated” Romney. It goes on to report how much of a lead Obama had, and how that aligned with the pre-election polls. But, according the Report, because the win was so close and because the parties in Washington are so divided, the election “reaffirmed the status quo.” The article repeats the sentiment of a divided government at the end.
Like the Tribune, the Report mentions that Obama won despite the economy and job market. The article then describes how Obama’s win reflects opinions in the polls: voters didn’t think Romney was “a superior alternative” and believed Obama to be “more in touch.” It also mentions Romney’s image as favoring the upper class, and describes Obama’s campaign strategy as “brilliant.”
U.S. News and World Report is a bit more balanced than the Chicago Tribune when handling this story (it doesn’t quote either candidate), but it slightly favors Obama by concentrating on where his campaign succeeded and where Romney’s failed, and showing how polled voters showed preference for Obama.
The article can be found at http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/11/07/obama-wins-a-second-term-with-a-strong-ground-game.
Unlike the Joplin reports, these papers' stories are probably written the way they are because of each paper's respective political slant, which does not necessarily depend on region. The Tribune simply has a tendency to sometimes take a conservative slant, whle U.S. News and World Report (in this article at least) is trying to show a more balanced approach to repoarting.
Oklahoma City bombing disaster relief fund
Even though the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing is nearly eighteen years past, an investigation was recently done into possible misuse of the disaster relief fund. On March 1, 2013, NBC News did a report on their show Rock Center With Brian Williams:
According to the report, the Oklahoma City Foundation has $10 million of donations left over in a disaster relief fund for the bombing survivors. The report said that some victims were “outraged” because they’d been “denied help for years.” One interviewee said the Foundation “lost their sympathy” as time passed. Another interviewee said that her daughter was denied aid because of low grades (part of the donation was supposed to go to scholarships of children whose parents died in the bombing). There are several other examples of people being denied money from the Foundation.
NBC does, however, report the Foundation’s side and interviews its president. She said she thinks people need to be “realistic...about how much money can really do.” Then it goes back to reporting the view of the “disgruntled” survivors.
The Foundation president argued that preserving the fund will ensure that there can be aid “for many years to come” and that they want to help survivors “move forward,” and money is only one “tool” for doing so. Asked if their role was “paternalistic,” she said they had been, “whether that’s good or bad.” Another interviewee said this approach is “the worst thing you can do.”
While NBC seems to be trying a balanced approach, it approaches the story as a scandal and appears to take the victims’ side (the accompanying video much more so than the article). The headline, “Disaster relief? Dealing with Oklahoma City bombing fund ‘horrible,’ victim says,” reflects this.
The article and video can both be found at http://rockcenter.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/01/17136505-disaster-relief-dealing-with-oklahoma-city-bombing-fund-horrible-victim-says?lite.
Three weeks later, on March 22, 2013, KJRH (the Tulsa, Oklahoma NBC affiliate), responded to NBC’s report. Their online article is titled “Independent investigation into Oklahoma City Community Foundation finds no financial wrongdoing.” The article cites a report by the Foundation as saying that the relief fund “was properly handled.”
Members of the Foundation called for the investigation and a 151-page report was released, which “concluded that none of the funds were being misused.” The report also made a comment about the NBC report--“NBC’s Rock Center with Bryan Williams even covered the story.”--which makes it seem like they were surprised the story got national attention.
The very short article doesn’t go into any detail other than this, and seems merely like a defense to the NBC coverage to say “the Foundation did nothing wrong.”
The article (and the Rock Center video) can be found at http://www.kjrh.com/dpp/news/state/independent-investigation-into-oklahoma-city-community-foundation-finds-no-financial-wrongdoing.
It is interesting that the national news station would take a deeper, investigative look into the victims of the Okalahoma City bombing and how this scandal has effected them than the Tulsa news affiliate, whose audience would likely be more personally invested in the story. Unlike the Joplin story, the national news coverage of the event concentrates more on the people involved in the scandal, while the local news coverage only concentrates on the scandal itself. This shows that bias in reporting is not necessarily dependent on region, but on the individual news source.