Words Matter: Descriptive Labels

Here is an interesting rack-up of how different mainstream news media described the January 6th incident at the US Capitol Building. This published survey omitted Facebook and the late-night talk shows which, even though they lack much factual quality control, are the go-to news sources for many US residents. Also, it appears that the survey covers only news reports focusing on people who entered the Capitol Building (some by force and some peacefully, judging from the available videos).

The descriptive labels used in the news stories help shape public opinion and, in turn, perceived opinions of each media outlet’s customer base affect the slant taken in that outlet’s reporting. Perhaps this helps explain the nuances seen from one outlet to another in the tally, while the consistencies seen across all of the media underscore the main thrust of the reporting. Or at least that’s one way to view it.

A similar survey of how news media outlets described recent attempts to invade and destroy the federal courthouse building in Portland, Oregon would probably show much larger differences in wording. I contacted the people who published the survey illustrated above to ask about reporting of last year’s incident. If they come through with an answer, I will try to bring you the comparison.

4 thoughts on “Words Matter: Descriptive Labels

  1. Interesting that an important parameter, time period covered, was not mentioned. I am guessing 2 to 3 days. It is so typical of the newsmedia to report incomplete information as final and complete. Unfortunately, this rush to judgemental is mob justice. Our country should be better than that.


    1. We have seen conflicting video footage and conflicting information, and new information is still emerging. Not sure that we will ever have the whole story, and the corporate news media and their short attention span are not much help.


      1. Big problem is that major news media don’t admit errors. The just report the updates. So earlier erroneous reports keep floating in social media.


  2. It could also be interesting to compare the tone and content of comments from leading members of congress when speaking about the incident at the Capitol and when speaking about the longer-term events at the federal courthouse in Portland, OR. I believe a substantial difference would be found, perhaps related to the fact that no members of congress were among the federal employees inside the courthouse during the repeated efforts to burn it down.


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