Media Slanting News Against Terri Schiavo, Report Says

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 24, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Media Slanting News Against Terri Schiavo, Report Says Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 24
, 2005

Washington, DC ( — A report from a media watchdog group says the national news media is slanting its news coverage against Terri Schiavo and her parents’ effort to prevent her starvation death.

The report by the Media Research Center finds that the main three television news networks "have tilted their recent coverage of the Terri Schiavo case in ways that bolster her husband Michael’s arguments."

The network news outlets have made repeated claims that Terri is in a persistent vegetative state, despite numerous doctors and neurologists who say otherwise. MRC also found that network news coverage consistently alleged that Terri indicated she would want to die rather than receive food and water.

Reporters for ABC, CBS and NBC "have attempted to debunk arguments made by her parents — namely that some doctors believe she could be helped and that Mrs. Schiavo, a Catholic, would not want her feeding tube disconnected," according to a report by the media watchdog.

MRC analysts examined all 31 evening newscasts that aired from March 17, the date when Terri’s feeding tube was removed, through March 21.

The study found that a majority (59%) of the news segments on Terri included soundbites repudiating Congress for passing a bill allowing Terri’s parents to take their case to federal courts.

Nearly all of the positive comments came from members of Congress invited to be guests or appearing in actualities. Yet, the negative comments came not just from Terri’s estranged husband Michael or his representatives, but from anchors and reporters.

"Whatever your beliefs," ABC’s Jake Tapper commented on Friday, "Terri Schiavo and her family deserved better than the way Congress worked this week."

Tapper also rejected the value of videotapes showing Terri Schiavo apparently responding: "In some ways, these tapes are like psychological inkblot tests. You see in them what you want."

On Monday’s CBS Evening News, reporter Elizabeth Kaledin argued that "this is exactly the kind of scenario doctors are worried about. It’s sad enough that this case had to play out in the courts, but to get politics involved now, I think they would say, is just bad medicine."

ABC’s Peter Jennings dismissed one of the Schindlers’ worries: "They also say that she will die a painful death, though there does not seem to be any support for that argument in the
medical community."

According to MRC 60% of the news stories presented the legal debate between Michael and the Schindlers from Michael’s vantage point while only 40 percent showed it from the perspective of Terri’s parents.

The study found that none of the news stories examined whether or not Michael was acting in Terri’s best interests, while all three networks ran stories criticizing the Schindlers and their doctors’ statements that Terri’s condition could be improved.

The Media Research Center study also found that none of the broadcast networks included any medical experts who dissent from the view that Terri is PVS and has no chance of recovering — even though dozens of doctors and neurologists have come forward stating otherwise.

A recent poll indicates the public has picked up on this media bias.

According to a poll by Gallup released by CNN and USA Today on Tuesday, 46% of Americans disagree with the media’s handling of the Terri Schiavo situation while 43 percent agree.

Related web sites:
MRC study –