Wisconsin is in turmoil as the nation watches the dramatic events of the Budget Repair Bill unravel. This is the perfect time to see how objectively and fully the event is being covered through the many forms of media.
Imagine a viewer from outside of Wisconsin, how may know very little of what is really happening in the state and what the contents of the Budget Repair Bill are. Here are some examples from competing cable news networks Fox News and MSNBC.
The coverage is very conflicted. This clip of Governor Scott Walker with Sean Hannity portrays Walker as very sensible, with almost spoon-fed questions. There is a graphic of the 14 Wisconsin senators titled, “Wisconsin’s Most Wanted.”
On the contrary, the “Ed Show” on MSNBC focuses on the protesters as Ed Schultz uses colorful language such as, “amazing… passion… the love of neighber… and determination.” MSNBC portrays this controversy as a struggle between average people versus an unpopular political agenda.
National Print Coverage
Naturally, a controversy as hot as this one will be covered not just by national cable news networks. Articles like this example from the New York Times can be found on almost any major print publication: New York Times Online Article.
The target audience of these publications are more of a nationwide focus. So the basics of what is going on — Scott Walker, protesters, recent events concerning the bill — are the main subjects of the articles.
State and Local Sources
Readers, especially the ones being affected by this bill, want to know more than just the very basic facts of this bill. And they more than likely do not want a certain political agenda pushed on them through their news gathering.
A good alternative besides national-level broadcast and print sources are news outlets from Wisconsin or readers’ very own hometowns. Research conducted for this blog found the real guts of the Budget Repair Bill, such as details that many probably are unaware of, can be found on a much more local level.
Examples from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel provide sound examples: JS Online: No-Bid Sale to Power Plants discusses content in the bill concerning state-owned power plants and JS Online: UW Hospitals Also Affected unveils information of how hospitals on UW campuses are also involved with the bill.
Summary: how can we be best become informed?
The answer to the above question does not have one answer. It depends on the readers. It is not the fault of the New York Times that it may not necessarily have as in-depth reports as the Milwauke Journal Sentinel. And the above examples of national broadcast mediums are more extreme cases. Political agendas will not be outright pushed on something like Dateline.
In conclusion, if a concerned citizen wants every detail possible so they could become more informed on an issue that definitely affects them, they should incorporate not only national media but state- and local-level sources as well.
— Alex Zank