Bodhi Jordan / Staff Reporter
News is a business. In order to differentiate themselves in a competitive world, news sources often tailor their stories to their target market. This can create bias in reporting as writers and editors may choose to emphasize the elements of a story to attract customers.
On August 4 of 2020, a warehouse in the Port of Beirut exploded. Many news stories were written over several news cycles about this particular event. I have chosen 3 articles from 3 sources to demonstrate how the presentation of a story in a particular source can show the bias of that source, or a reflection of its target audience.
The BBC is a nearly 100 year-old news press, having run since October of 1922 out of the United Kingdom. Their piece, entitled “Beirut Explosion: What You Need To Know”, discussed only the facts of the explosion. While some articles discussed why the explosion may had happened in theory, this piece was primarily factual and talked only about what the author knew without the use of editorializing. In terms of the story, the main points were focused around the 5 W’s, with emphasis on where (a warehouse near the grain silos of the port) and why (a fire that sparked on the roof of the building). Due to its longer running history, as well as its writing style, one can infer the BBC was writing for an audience who is only looking for the facts of an event without commentary or opinions.
Vice is a Canadian media group established in 1994 in Montreal, though now it has moved most of its operations to the United States. While they got their start in magazine production, Vice’s main market was online news posted to their website. Vice’s “Lebanon’s Entire Government Just Resigned Over Beirut Explosion” focused entirely on the who and when of the aftermath of the explosion. This piece shows how Vice attempts to grab the reader’s attention, not only with facts but with feelings (emotional appeals of the explosion and protests) and storytelling as well. Due to their shorter history in comparison to the BBC, their different location, and their different style, one can assume that they are more suited to their online style. When one is reading a Vice piece, they are likely to notice the more informal and more emotional language, and the emphasis on emotions rather than facts. From these facts, a reader can also infer that Vice’s piece was more aimed towards a younger audience.
Macleans is a Canadian owned-and-run news corporation that publishes a monthly news magazine. Their piece entitled “Pulling Lebanon Back From The Brink” presented a Canadian perspective on this story. In the beginning, it states that Lebanon was “always broken long before the ammonium nitrate exploded.” Much like Vice, it goes into the story of Lebanon’s governmental destabilization after the explosion, but it also talks about the destabilization before the explosion. In addition, it speaks on Canada’s potential impact, and how Prime Minister Trudeau talked about his potential role in the restructuring of Lebanon. This piece shows how a Canadian news source writing for a Canadian audience told not only the story of what happened, but of how Canada may become involved in the aftermath.
The three examples above demonstrate how different news sources will report on an event focusing on information and details of the story that they expect to be of interest to their target audience.