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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Reuters reports on Zimmerman taking voice stress test; all but neglects that he passed it

The Trayvon Martin case has morphed from a story about a black youth being murdered in cold blood by an older white male into an all-out referendum on the mainstream media for its gross and collective misconduct. Now we've learned that George Zimmerman was given a voice stress test shortly after the shooting. However, if you read the Reuters article written by Stephanie Rabiner, the story is handled with egregious bias. Though it's not on the same level as what happened with the selective editing of Zimmerman's 911 call at NBC, it's clearly in the same spirit.

Here is the Reuters headline:

Naturally, after reading the headline, your next question would be, "Well, did he pass it?"

Here is what Rabiner reported in the next two paragraphs:
Did you know that, on the night of Trayvon Martin's death, Sanford police gave George Zimmerman a voice stress test?

They did, and the results probably contributed to his release.
In Journalism, there is a commonly understood rule (though Reuters seems more interested in avoiding it when following that rule conflicts with their agenda). It says that the most important news item is in the headline, with the first paragraph picking up on the headline and giving you the most important detail not communicated by the headline. It can be argued that there are three important aspects to this particular story. The first is that Zimmerman was issued a voice stress test; the second is the results; and the third is the viability of the test itself.

Rabiner avoided mentioning the results in the headline as well as in the very first paragraph. In fact, the first paragraph is completely irrelevant to the story! By the time she even gets to the issue of the results, she does so while implying that the police relied on those results when making the decision not to arrest Zimmerman.

The article then goes on to essentially discredit the voice stress test by citing a Justice Department study that says it's virtually useless:
Expert opinion is mixed, but a study commissioned by the Justice Department suggests that a voice stress test is "no better than flipping a coin."
Uh, would that be the racially biased Eric Holder-led Justice Department? Wow. Does anyone think that would be in there if Zimmerman had failed the test?

Now, go back to the beginning of the article where it says that police may have released Zimmerman based, in part, on his passing the test. Is this not a slap at the Sanford police for being so incompetent as to release Zimmerman based on a discredited test? Reuters is editorializing with these subtle inferences and is basically doing what NBC was caught doing, though in a more nuanced way.

Again, the top two relevant facts about this story are Zimmerman taking the test and Zimmerman passing the test. Rabiner doesn't mention the results until the last paragraph and only after she has attempted to discredit the viability of the test itself:
George Zimmerman's voice stress test came out clean, according to attorney Hal Uhrig. If the Sanford Police Department is willing to spend more than $10,000 on the product, then it probably trusts its results. And those results probably corroborated what officers initially saw at the scene.
Reuters knows that the least read paragraph of any story is the last one. That's why it placed the most relevant, fair paragraph penned by Rabiner at the very end of the story.

Here is how a headline and first paragraph might look if the story was written by an objective news source:
Zimmerman reportedly passed Voice Stress Test administered by Police

The attorney for George Zimmerman says that his client passed a voice stress test administered by police on the night of Trayvon Martin's death but the viability of such a test is a subject of debate.
Every important aspect to the story is covered, no sides are taken, and the reader may or may not decide to read further.

Unfortunately, the firing of a "seasoned producer" at NBC hasn't done much for the toxic mainstream media culture. It's like removing one fire ant from a pile.

Got Amdro?

h/t GWP

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