NBC 26 Commits Bias by Story Selection, Spin

WGBA NBC 26 |  3-29-2017

On March 29, 2017, NBC 26 (WGBA) featured an article on its website titled: When is an attack called ‘terrorism?’ A heavy topic to be sure, and one that has prompted many a PhD thesis, undoubtedly.

The piece (actually published by CNN but nevertheless promulgated by NBC 26) criticizes America’s, generally, and the Trump Administration’s, specifically, failure to adequately address and condemn the murder of Timothy Caughman (a black man) by James Harris Jackson (a white man).  

In essence, the writer’s premise is that the murder of a black man by a white man is no different than a murder of a Muslim by a non-Muslim: both are acts of terror, yet the former never gets adequate attention.*  

Though WMC does not wish to enter the debate of race relations, let alone the question of “what constitutes terrorism,” WMC does consider NBC 26’s decision to feature this story biased for two reasons.

First, this isn’t actually a news story – it’s an editorial promulgating certain opinions and ideologies that are cast as a news story. Failing to identify the piece for what it is – opinion – constitutes bias by story selection.

Second, assuming this piece were to constitute “news,” the writer commits bias by spin. How? The writer both concludes and furthers the narrative that the murder of a black individual by a white individual constitutes a hate crime and is terrorism; however, nowhere does the writer acknowledge the inverse of this logic: the murder of a white individual by a black individual must also then constitute a hate crime and be terrorism.

Often in reporting (especially about race and crime), the media applies one interpretation of the meaning of certain acts committed by one group, while not applying the same interpretation for another group. This is spin.

*Editor’s Note:  As of the date of authoring this story, NBC 26 had not reported on Caughman’s murder.  Thus, in a nice bit of irony, NBC 26 chose to feature a story criticizing the lack of news coverage of an event, itself, chose not to cover.


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