The Chicago Tribune carries a story today on the demonstration by the American Middle East Christian Association (AMECA) against the Ramadan assignment given in a California public school. You may have read about it here last Tuesday. The Trib story is a classic media treatment. Although it says that “a 7th-grade world history teacher in California outraged Christian groups by offering extra credit to students who fasted in the tradition of Ramadan to learn about Islam,” it never gives the name of any of thoseb groups.
Instead, it mentions only “evangelical radio show host Bob Morey of KPLS-AM,” who responded to parents’ complaints by helping to “organize a rally last week that drew several hundred people.” In other words, there was no mention of AMECA, with its significant contingent of Egyptian Coptic Christians. That might have aroused sympathy for the demonstrators. Instead, they name just one man from that perennial media bogey, the evangelicals.
Also, imagine you are reporter David Pierson, and you have this quote from Morey: “What would Muslim parents feel if their students came home with a letter from their public school teacher [saying] that next Thursday they’re bringing in a priest to baptize all the Muslim children?” And you also have this quote from a student: “Eighth-grader Nicole DeWitt said: ‘I think it was stupid that they were protesting. They’re just trying to make kids understand other religions. They teach us about everybody.'” As the reporter you can put these quotes and your other material in any order you choose. By placing Nicole’s quote as the last element in the article, you give her the last word. (That is in fact how the article ends.) Imagine how different the effect of the article would be if Morey’s quote had been at the end.
Pierson also provides a platform for Sabiha Khan, a spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who said: “It goes to show how irrational some people’s fears are and how deep ignorance of Islam is.” Of Morey, Khan says: “He’s part of the new `bash Islam’ industry.” Then comes the inflammatory statement: “Morey has said that the more than 6 million Muslims who live in the U.S. should be registered.” But Morey is given no chance to defend himself against Khan’s charges, and no mention, of course, is made of CAIR’s own shadowy ties to Islamic extremism.
That is how the press works today.