Two major media outlets displayed bias by emotionalism in their coverage of public violence on Friday, ahead of police releasing bodycam footage from the arrest and beating of Tyre Nichols, and Atlanta authorities reportedly preparing for anti-police riots this weekend.
CNN (Left bias) focused its coverage on the reaction from Nichols' family and led its updates with an image of Nichols' mother crying. Fox News (Right bias) focused on authorities' planned response to potential violence in Georgia, and led coverage with an image of a fiery riot.
In Tennessee, five Memphis police officers were fired and charged with murder after they allegedly beat 29-year-old Tyre Nichols following a traffic stop. Nichols died in the hospital three days later.
According to Memphis Police, the officers pulled Nichols over for “reckless driving.” After a “confrontation” during the stop, Nichols reportedly fled on foot, leading to a physical confrontation that ended with Nichols being beaten and arrested. Ahead of the release of bodycam footage from the incident, authorities in cities nationwide prepared for possible protests and violence, and urged peace among the populace.
In Georgia, six people were charged with domestic terrorism after an anti-police protest turned violent in Atlanta last weekend. The protests were in response to the death of 26-year-old Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, who was reportedly killed by police after shooting a state trooper.
In the unrest, people vandalized the Atlanta Police Foundation, lit a police cruiser on fire, and sprayed anti-police graffiti.
How Major Media Outlets Showed Bias
CNN offered live updates on the Nichols situation Friday. It led its coverage with a photo of Nichols’ mother crying, and a summary that reads, “Tyre Nichols' mother says her son was 'already gone' by the time she got to him in the hospital. 'They had beat him to a pulp,' she tells CNN.”
By focusing on the Nichols' family's agony and the mother crying, CNN's coverage has a strong emotional theme that inclines viewers to feel a certain way, in this case sympathizing with the family.
Fox News’ coverage of civil unrest and violence had much different framing. Fox’s top article on Friday highlighted a statement from Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who said that "Georgians respect peaceful protests, but do not tolerate acts of violence against persons or property" ahead of potential anti-police unrest this weekend in Atlanta.
By focusing on the potential for riots and using violent imagery, Fox News's coverage could stoke fear among readers as a response to the situation.
Both these screenshots of coverage were taken from a mobile device.
How to Avoid Media Bias
Be aware of how various types of media bias, such as photo bias, sensationalism, and slant, can skew your perception of a story and drum up an emotional reaction.
Read more bias analysis of the NHL Pride Night controversy and President Joe Biden's classified documents scandal.
Henry A. Brechter is the managing editor of AllSides. He has a Center bias.