Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Framing a Story

According to today's Merced Sun-Star"The big rig carrying a load of turkeys overturned near Le Grand, knocking power lines down, the California Highway Patrol reports...It does not appear anyone was injured in the accident. Firefighters and Pacific Gas & Electric employees are responding for the power lines and Foster Farms has been called for the turkeys."

The same story was covered very differently by Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary, a farmed animal sanctuary in Central California whose volunteers raced to the scene of the accident to try to help save the injured turkeys. They reported on their Facebook page, "We spoke with California Highway Patrol officers and offered immediate rescue assistance for the injured turkeys at the crash site. CHP denied our offer to help."

Later, Harvest Home posted the following picture, along with the following: "The crash site is cleared. All that remains is blood, feathers and dirt on the roadside. The bird 'survivors' were hauled to Foster Farms' turkey slaughterhouse in Turlock to be killed later today."

I was struck by how radically different the newspaper--and how the Merced Sun-Star treated the story was no different from every other media account today--treated the story compared to how Harvest Home did. The paper emphasized the fact that there were no (human) injuries, and that power lines were damaged. Other media accounts discussed disruptions to the morning commute. But no media story mentioned the suffering or loss of life experienced by the turkeys, or the presence of the rescue group. 

Obviously, news is created, not "reported." It's not like news is just found, like pebbles, on the ground, to be scooped up by a reporter, and given to the reader or viewer each day in its pure form.

It's actively created and packaged each day by a team of reporters, writers, editors, and producers, all with their own agendas and interests, not least of which are the interests of the corporations who advertise in the newspaper or on the television station. Those interests must certainly be served. Perhaps reporting on the loss of life of the turkeys--both at the crash site, and, for the survivors, a few hours later at Foster Farms' processing plant, was not in the best interests of those advertisers.

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