Friday, March 4, 2011

Second Time Round the "World News"

This week, I return to ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer.”  I think I will repeat the cycle of the networks and at the end of the 12 weeks give my verdict on which one is the most objective.

                The top story for this broadcast was about how Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft, wants to dramatically change the way education is done in the United States.  Anchor Diane Sawyer began the package by describing how federal spending on education has been mishandled and is detrimental to students, teachers and schools.  Reporter Ron Claiborne then took over and discussed how Gates and his foundation are inserting themselves into a “very political issue.”  Claiborne spoke of how the “generally soft-spoken” Gates has “radical ideas and sharp criticism” for the current education system.   A rundown of Gates’ current initiatives and future ideas followed.  Currently Gates is conducting research on how good teachers teach by using video recordings.  Claiborne pointed out that this research is taking place in mainly urban education districts, like Memphis, Tenn.  Gates questioned how salaries are being paid, especially when it comes to teacher seniority and teachers with advanced degrees.  He found that teachers that have been at a school longer or have an advanced degree rarely show better results from their students.  Highlighting the other side of the issue, Claiborne featured a quote from President of the National Education Association, Dennis von Roekel.  Von Roekel disagreed with Gates, saying that higher degrees make a distinct difference in teaching ability.  Claiborne speaks of Gates’ most interesting proposition: that better teachers should take on more students and that the smaller class-size model may not work.  Gates feels that a better teacher taking on “five or six more students” would allow more students to achieve.
                Honestly, I am predisposed to agree with anything Bill Gates says because he is an icon of mine.  However, ABC does a good job of not taking all of Gates’ arguments at face value.   While never demeaning or bashing Gates, ABC is able to put his ideas into the public forum in an unbiased way.  The addition of the quote from Von Roekel made the piece much more balanced.  Gates does have some “radical” ideas about how education should be done, but it may be good for the education community to hear them.  I am curious, however, why Claiborne felt it necessary to mention that Memphis, Tenn., was one of the areas being monitored by Gates.  The piece would have been fine without this addition and could have stood without the clarification of a city.  Perhaps Claiborne thought he should at least focus the audience’s perception of “urban.”  All in all, this is a good report.

                The problems in Libya rage on, and ABC was there to cover the conflict.  This story covered the president’s recent actions, the rebel defensive against the Libyan air force and the feasibility of a no-fly zone.  Sawyer began this package by discussing how President Obama has called for Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi to step down from power.  Interestingly, both Obama and Sawyer use Gaddafi’s military title when referring to him.  This may be a formality on their part, or possibly an attempt at objectivity.  Sawyer mentioned that Obama left the option of a no-fly zone open in his speech Wednesday. 
                Sawyer then sent the package over to Tripoli, Libya, where correspondent Lama Hasan provided updates on the Libyan rebels.  Hasan discussed how the people of Libya want a no-fly zone established in order to protect them from Gaddafi’s fighter jets.  Hasan mentions the oil-rich town of Brega, where Gaddafi’s fighters had struck hard.  The rebels managed to ward them off and avoided more casualties.  Hasan questioned whether or not the rebels “have the firepower” needed to continue the fighting. 
                Before going on to the second part of this segment, I want to critique Hasan’s report.  Firstly, in ethical terms, is firepower what is necessary to win this struggle?  Should there be more talks going on within the Libyan government and country about how to resolve this issue before any other country gets involved.  Also, the people need to realize that fighting back could possibly make things harder for them down the line and that the small gains will be worth nothing, should Gaddafi regain control.  Journalistically, Hasan needs to clarify who is who.  She starts off the segment by saying, “The opposition here is in favor of a no-fly zone.”  This statement clearly indicates that “opposition” is the people who are fighting for freedom from Gaddafi.  Later in the piece, when describing the conflict at Brega, Hasan reports, “Brega is a powerful oil-town that has fallen under the control of the opposition.”  Now who is the opposition?  The use of “fallen under” leads this viewer to think that the Libyan government has seized Brega, as the government and Gadaffi supporters are generally considered the “bad guys.”  Based on her previous statement, the opposition is the team the audience should be cheering for, though.   Hasan never clarifies whether or not Brega fell to the government or the people.  Hasan needs to realize that she misused terms and confused her audience.  Also, as I discussed in my last post, the media seems to be spurring on this and other conflicts in the Middle East by highlighting the need for more “firepower” and by showing the general violence that encapsulates the region.  ABC may want to choose its words a bit more carefully when reporting this event.
                Getting back to the story, Sawyer then sends it off to Martha Raddatz, the ABC Pentagon reporter.  Raddatz reported that for the United States to help with a no-fly zone, it would require 24 fighter jets, an aircraft carrier, a tanker, and a radar-equipped plane called an “ARACS.”  Raddatz also expressed doubt at how much money the proposed operation would cost.  She reported that in order for an internationally-aided no-fly zone to be put into effect, the United Nations would have to agree to it, or NATO would have to be on-board.  Raddatz expressed more concern for the project by saying that the United States had neither of these two approvals at the current time.  In addition, she raises the question of whether or not the no-fly zone is a good idea for America.
                Raddatz was clearly not objective.  She did not necessarily consider the pros and cons of the no-fly zone from Libyan and American perspectives.  Yes, for the United States this would cost a ton of money and only further the perception that American is the world’s policeman.  For Libya, the no-fly zone would only help the people.  Raddatz does, however, do a good job of presenting these stumbling blocks in the way of getting the no-fly zone up and running.  These hard facts are good for the media to deal with and the American public to hear.

1 comment:

  1. Bill Gates wants kids to watch videos in school? Is he nuts? Or what's in it for him? As a parent, I freak out when my kids come home having watched a video. Where's the education?

    Also, a very hard question that no one is asking in education is the student factor. No one wants to suggest that kids from lower socio-economic backgrounds are harder to teach. However, as I have observed from having children in the local urban school district, families of lower SES children don't anticipate college, nor do they value education above all else. And their children really do struggle more at school, according to my personal observations. I also know from personal experience that these children aren't unintelligent nor are they violent; they just don't have the atmosphere of education about them at all times. I think there is a relationship. We need to talk about that somehow. But how?