I did my essay on media bias, specifically pertaining to the reportage of a protest during the Pride Parade, and whether media bias can actually be a GOOD thing. Below is an edited, shorter version of my essay, to allow for more discussion on this.
The Auckland Pride Parade took place during the annual Auckland Pride Festival earlier this year on February 21st. If you read the New Zealand Herald the following day you would find the headline, “Thousands watch Auckland’s Pride Parade.” (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=11405808) However, if you read gay news website GayNZ the next day, or even the day of the parade, these are the headlines you would find: “Akl Pride Parade protestor injured” (http://www.gaynz.com/articles/publish/2/article_16496.php)I, “Police outline response to protest injury (http://www.gaynz.com/articles/publish/2/article_16521.php), “Parade director disappointed by protest” (http://www.gaynz.com/articles/publish/2/article_16498.php). Two vastly different approaches to exactly the same event.
The event in question was a protest that happened during the Pride Parade. As police and corrections officers marched in the parade in uniform, three protestors from No Pride in Prisons, an activism group for trans prisoners made their way past the barriers in front of the officers holding a banner. The protestors resisted being moved away by security and one person, a Maori transwoman, was injured.
Media bias is defined as the bias of journalists within the media in the selection of events and stories that are reported, and also in how they are covered. The coverage of this event by the New Zealand Herald and GayNZ represents the bias that is inherent in both of these organistions, and in the audience that they necessarily cater to. The coverage of this event by these two outlets is an example of media bias, and in one case, how media bias, namely the selective coverage of events, is not always a bad thing.
Discussing the coverage that the New Zealand Herald gave this event does not take long. In the initial report of the parade, on early Sunday February 22ndwhich largely focuses on the officers who marched in uniform for the first time and the famous people who also marched, the protest is only mentioned towards the end as a ‘minor disruption’ and the article ends on the note: “One of the protestors was arrested and later treated by St. John staff for injuries she suffered during the arrest.”
Later that day, an article with the headline: “Pride protestor in hospital after altercation” (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11406046) appeared. The event is covered in more detail, including an interview with a police officer who marched and one of the protestors. The article also mentions another news event that had caught on overnight; the vandalising of ANZ’s GayTMs, which were normal ATM machines painted with rainbow colours for the pride festival, by Queers Against Injustice.
Conversely, the coverage of this event by GayNZ was extensive and continued for many days after the event. After the initial report, at 11:30PM of the night of the Pride Parade, there were articles covering the police’s response to the event, the response of the Pride director, a statement from the activist group, and editorials from members of the community. The event was picked up early on by social media and debate about it raged on both Facebook and Twitter.
Before looking at the coverage of this event by these news outlets, it’s important to consider the function and audience of the New Zealand Herald and GayNZ. The New Zealand Herald is a newspaper that is read throughout the country, whether in print or online, and is expected to provide news that caters and informs that audience. On the other hand, GayNZ is a website that deals exclusively, and extensively, with news that is relevant and important to the LGBT community. Unlike The Herald, it is an online only news outlet.
When viewed through this lens, the media bias of the New Zealand Herald is understandable. Is this protest a notable event? Absolutely, and it makes sense to cover it in an article that also covers the Pride Parade. Is it worthy of continued coverage for a national audience? Probably not. Realistically, the Auckland Pride Parade itself is not relevant to a national audience, and a protest by a small activist group even less so.
This is an example of where media bias can be a positive concept. GayNZ’ s commitment to covering news that is important to the LGBT community, excluding all other news, allowed this event to be covered thoroughly, with a great deal of information coming out about it throughout the week and being duly reported in course.
There is also a refreshing lack of anti-authoritarian bias in the reportage of the event. There can be a tendency for minorities to be harsh on and critical of police and other authority figures, usually for completely fair reasons that involve continued, extended and unwarranted persecution. In this case, GayNZ reported the police’s statements as is and with no editorializing, which is the same coverage that was given to the statements from No Pride in Prisons. See: http://www.gaynz.com/articles/publish/2/article_16502.php and http://www.gaynz.com/articles/publish/2/article_16521.php
However, the thoroughness of the coverage at some points dipped into sensationalism. There is a brief interview with Karen Ritchie, an unrelated member of the community, where she condemns the protest group that contributes little to an audience’s understanding of what went on. (http://www.gaynz.com/articles/publish/2/article_16506.php)
More troubling is a copy-pasting of a Facebook post made by DJ Steven Oates onto the website, an eyewitness account of the protest that is full of emotive language and poor grammar. In the post, he condemns the group and disputes many of the statements made by them in a previous GayNZ article, namely how long it took for a protestor to receive medical help and how much they agitated the crowd. (http://www.gaynz.com/articles/publish/45/article_16512.php)
Regardless of whether the post is informative or not, this post is presented as a news item, a ‘witness account’, and the emotive writing is more representative of a letter to the editor than as a piece of news. Especially considering the rest of the site’s coverage of the protest, which is remarkably well-informed and balanced, this sticks out as a particularly sensationalist and unhelpful piece of ‘news’.
The coverage of these events by these two news outlets are representative of what they are and who they cater for, and an example of how media bias is both a good and bad thing. The vast majority of readers of the New Zealand Herald don’t want to read a week of coverage on an event that effects a minority of the population, and whether they should want to read that is another issue entirely. Meanwhile, the audience of GayNZ want to read about this event so the website can afford to cover it for an entire week; it’s what they’re passionate about and they want to hear about it, and if a more casual reader of the Herald wants to read continuing coverage of this event, they can.
My question to you guys is
1. Is the media bias of GayNZ in this instance a bad or a good thing, or somewhere in between?
2. Should The Herald be criticized of how it covered this event? Was it substantial enough for a national audence?