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Media Coverage Comparison 1: Muslim Teen Kidnapped & Killed

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Media Coverage Comparison 1: Muslim Teen Kidnapped & Killed

There isn’t a good place online to compare the coverage from different news outlets covering the same story. We decided to give it a try ourselves. 

It’s hard to navigate the media landscape these days. Charges of ‘fake news’ are hurled back and forth, bias is present everywhere you look, and the explosion of available information sources makes it more difficult than ever to find relevant news stories that are as complete and factual as possible.

Often when a story breaks, news consumers have their opinions shaped by the first few sources they encounter. And when consumers choose sources with viewpoints that tend to agree with their own, they can easily miss corrections or close themselves off to different perspectives that might provide more context.  It’s a good practice to read stories from multiple sources.  But there isn’t really a place online where people can go to compare coverage from different sources on the same topic.

Today we’re going to give it a try. We’ll do a little media comparison on a single story: we’ll take a look at the headlines, and point out interesting language or word choice in the coverage when we find it. And we’ll provide links to all the stories, so you can judge for yourself how the coverage differs, and whether those differences are material or not.

The story we’ll look at is a horrific murder of a teenage girl in Virginia. First the basic facts:

A seventeen-year-old girl was walking with friends to a mosque after having a meal nearby. A man in a vehicle stopped near the group, jumped out, and started swinging a metal bat. The girl’s friends reported that they scattered, and they reported her missing when they couldn’t find her. Police believe the driver hit her with the bat, then put her in the car and drove away with her. Her body was found later that day in a pond.

Now let’s take a look at the headlines from some major news and opinion outlets. I’ve included the links below in the quotes so you’ll be able to find the stories themselves.

And some representative quotes:

Sun:

Islamic leaders are now questioning detectives’ claims that the beating appears to have been a case of road rage, saying the attack looks more like a hate crime.

Darwin Martinez Torres, a 22-year-old from El Salvador thought to be in the U.S. illegally, was jailed without bail on a murder charge after the girl’s body was pulled from a pond near his apartment.

ABC:

A man charged with murder in the death of a Muslim Virginia teen who was attacked near her mosque became “enraged” by a traffic argument with one of the girl’s friends and hit her with a baseball bat before abducting her, police said Monday.

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Though the slaying of Nabra Hassanen — whose body was found in a pond — raised concerns that she was targeted because she was Muslim, Fairfax County police spokeswoman Julie Parker said at a news conference that police have no reason to believe that the killing was a hate crime.

CNN:

Police in northern Virginia say a man fatally beat a Muslim teenager with a bat during a weekend road-rage incident.

But there’s no evidence the death of Nabra Hassanen, 17, who was attacked early Sunday as she and a group of teenagers walked back to a mosque, was a hate crime, authorities in Fairfax County said. Police said they could file appropriate charges if they later find the crime was motivated by hate.

NPR:

Police in Virginia’s Fairfax County say that preliminary investigation suggests that road rage, rather than racial or religious hatred, led to the killing of 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen.

“It appears the suspect became so enraged over this traffic argument that it escalated into deadly violence,” Julie Parker, director of public affairs for the Fairfax police, said at a news conference Monday evening.

NBC:

The murder is currently not being investigated as a hate crime “based on the totality of the information gathered by detectives” at this time, a police spokesman told NBC News. However, because the investigation is in its early stages, if more information comes to light, that could change, the spokesman said.

NYT:

A 22-year-old man accused of killing a Muslim teenager with a baseball bat in Virginia on Sunday is an undocumented immigrant who entered the United States illegally, federal authorities said on Tuesday.

Daily Mail:

The death of a Muslim teen who was assaulted after she left a mosque early Sunday morning was the result of ‘road rage’ with no indications of a hate crime, police said.

Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, appeared in court on Monday to face a murder charge after he got into a dispute with the 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen and a group of her friends in Sterling, North Virginia, the Fairfax County Police Department said.

BuzzFeed:

Shortly after finding her remains Sunday afternoon, officers arrested 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres and charged him with murder in connection to the case. Police said Monday evening that “the autopsy results show Nabra suffered from blunt force trauma to the upper body after a road rage incident.”

Mosque officials said Hassanen and her friends were coming back from eating during a break from Ramadan prayers when a car pulled up and a man with a baseball bat jumped out and started swinging at the group of girls.

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National Review:

Many stories used Hassanen’s murder as a lede to foray into a greater narrative about the collective crisis of violence against Muslims. But then actual facts and details around the case emerged. First, the Fairfax County Police Department publicly ruled out a hate crime as a motive, announcing that they were looking more closely into extreme road rage. Then, the Daily Caller reported that the murderer, Darwin Martinez Torres, was an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, with ICE confirming that it had issued a detainer request against him.

The Guardian:

A Fairfax county police statement said: “An investigation determined she was walking outside with a group of friends when they got into a dispute with a man in a car. It appears the suspect, Darwin A Martinez Torres, 22, of Sterling, got out of his car and assaulted the victim. Her friends could not find her and police were called to help.”

Nabra was reported missing about 4am. A police helicopter, patrol officers and search and rescue teams joined the hunt. “While searching, one officer saw a car driving suspiciously in the area and stopped it,” the statement added. “The driver, later identified as Martinez Torres, was taken into custody as a suspect.”

Business Insider:

A 17-year-old American Muslim girl was beaten and abducted after leaving a mosque in Virginia on Sunday by a man who the police later arrested on suspicion of murder after her body was found dumped in a pond, authorities said.

The attack happened early Sunday after the victim and several friends walking outside the mosque got into a dispute with a motorist in the community of Sterling, the Fairfax County Police Department said in a statement.

 

After looking at the different headlines and quotes and reading the different articles, what do you think?

  • Was the coverage wildly different, or was it mostly the same?
  • Did any one source seem to cover the story better than the others?
  • Which stories seemed to contain more bias?
  • Has enough time passed from the original incident for most of the facts to have come out?
  • What questions do you have that might not have been answered in the reporting?
  • What other sources would you recommend people seek out to get more information?
  • Did it help you understand the story (or the media) better to see the articles side by side?
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Felicia Cravens
About Felicia Cravens 41 Articles
Felicia Cravens is a freelance writer and conservative activist who has worked in Republican leadership for nearly two decades. She founded the Houston Tea Party Society and has spent years training and speaking to activists about party participation, conventions, parliamentary procedure, and messaging. Her work can also be found at Free Radical Network.

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