by David Kopel
Rocky Mountain News, Dec. 4, 2004
Last column I wrote about euphemistic media coverage of murder in the obituaries of Yasser Arafat. Here's another case:
On Wednesday, the Rocky Mountain Newsand The Denver Postboth ran an Associated Press story about doctors killing children at Groningen University Hospital in the Netherlands. Accurately summarizing the AP article by Toby Sterling, the Newsheadline called the killings "infant euthanasia," while the Postheadline read "baby mercy death." According to the AP, one condition for killing the child is "when parents think it's best." But as Knight-Ridder reporter Matthew Schofield explained in an article last October, the "Groningen Protocol" (which may be adopted as law in the Netherlands) gives doctors the power to kill a child even when the parents object, and allows the killing of children up to age 12. By U.S. legal standards, premeditated nonconsensual killings of innocents are known as "murder." The Denver papers erred by soft-pedaling the Dutch barbarism. (Thanks to MarkDRoberts.com for finding the Knight-Ridder story.)
Both the News and the Post ran articles reporting on former congressman Bob Schaffer's election-monitoring trip to the Ukraine and Schaffer's reports on the beginning of popular protests against the stolen election there. The Post,however, outdid the Newsby putting the full text of Schaffer's hour-by-hour email updates on its weblog - a posting that attracted attention from readers all over the world. Oddly, the Post'sprinted article failed to mention Schaffer's weblog entries on the Post'sWeb site.
Except for the Schaffer articles - and a full page of coverage, including a lengthy interview with a foreign affairs analyst, in the Commentary section of the Dec. 2 News- the Denver papers covered the Ukraine service through wire service reports, which were generally adequate, although they often framed the issue as Russia vs. the West, rather than the way many Ukrainians saw it, as democracy vs. kleptocracy. More thorough coverage was available from weblogs such as Le Sabot Post-Moderne ( post modernclog.com ).
Suppose that a big corporation headquartered in New York City were the center of the largest embezzlement scheme in world history ($21 billion), which enriched big oil companies, foreign dictators, terrorists, and its own employees. Further, suppose that the corporation's own union had declared its lack of confidence in the corporation's management, because of endemic corruption, and because of senior management's lax attitude towards sexual abuse, including coercive sex with underage girls.
Also suppose that the son of the company president was getting paid by another business that profited from the embezzlement scheme, and the company president had claimed that his son's affiliation ended in 1999, but actually the son continued with the business until 2004. And suppose that the company president and his staff were obstructing government investigations into their own corruption. Oh, and let's also suppose that the corporate president and his underlings had attempted to influence the recent U.S. presidential election.
You can be quite sure that a scandal of this incredible scope would be aggressively covered by the newspapers. And it has been covered by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Sun, and The Times of London, all of which advanced the story last month with major articles. But none of these stories were reprinted in The Denver Post,which has not written a word about the scandal's developments in the last month. The Rocky Mountain Newsdid slightly better, with a nine-paragraph article on page 34A of last Saturday's paper.
Why are the Denver papers so reticent about informing their readers about such a big scandal? Perhaps because the corrupt perpetrators are the United Nations and its disgraceful head Kofi Annan.
An AP article in the Nov. 30 Postreported on the recount for a narrowly defeated ballot issue in Alabama. The article accurately stated that the referendum would have removed unenforceable text from the Alabama Constitution which mandated racial segregation in schools and authorized poll taxes. (Both provisions are violations of the U.S. Constitution.) Only in the final paragraph did the article quote the Alabama Republican chairman, who explained that voters defeated the constitutional revision because of "fears that the measure would lead to court-ordered tax increases for public schools."
A Colorado reader might wonder how a rational Alabama voter could possibly fear that removing an unenforceable clause about racial segregation could possibly lead to tax increases. The answer was contained in the original AP article, but was chopped by bad editing at the Post:the Alabama measure also would have removed constitutional language stating that there is no right to an education at public expense. In some states where there is a state constitutional right to public education, courts have imposed tax increases to increase spending on government schools.
A short in the Newsabout the Alabama recount (Nov. 29) was likewise misleading by omission, describing the defeated measure only as involving "unenforced language mandating racial segregation."