Century Marks

Century Marks

Biased how?

Brooke Gladstone points out that political bias is not the only kind of bias in the news media. There is a commercial bias that prefers new or dramatic stories over less exciting ones in order to get viewers and readers. There is a bad news bias, based on the notion that people are drawn to stories that make us afraid. An access bias makes reporters tread lightly on stories that might jeopardize their ability to get information from powerful sources. A visual bias prefers stories with good images. A narrative bias favors stories that have a beginning, middle and ending. A fairness bias tries to give equal weight to all perspectives, even though some may be crazy or even false (Saturday Evening Post, May/June).

Rare case

A hard-line Muslim cleric received an 11-year suspended sentence last month for tearing up and burning a Bible in Egypt. His son was given a suspended sentence of eight years for the same incident. The two were ordered to pay a fine of 5,000 Egyptian pounds ($700). The ruling can be appealed. The cleric ripped up a Bible and burned it during a rally last fall by ultraconservative Salafi Muslims in front of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, protesting an anti-Islam film produced in the United States. It’s rare in Egypt for an attack on a faith other than Islam to be prosecuted (AP).

Define church

Will Campbell, who died last month, referred to himself as a bootleg preacher. A lawyer once asked him where he went to church. Campbell said that depends on your definition of church. The lawyer replied that church is a community of baptized believers. Campbell said that the night before he was in a tavern with a neighbor whose wife had just died. He watched him get drunk and helped him a bit. Campbell said he knew the people in that tavern. “There were all baptized; they were all believers,” he said (Tennessean, June 4).

Desperate messaging

While opening a Halloween package purchased at Kmart, an Oregon mother discovered a handwritten letter in which the writer said he was imprisoned in a work camp in northeastern China. The inmates there, the writer charged, worked 15 hours a day, seven days a week, and were tortured by sadistic guards. The letter drew international attention, but the writer remained a mystery until a Beijing resident came forward anonymously and admitted having written the letter when he was an inmate in a work camp. He is a member of the Falun Gong, a group outlawed by the Chinese government (New York Times, June 11).

New day in Iran?

The election of the moderate candidate Hassan Rouhani as president of Iran may provide an opportunity for the West to recalibrate its approach to Iran. Rouhani appealed to reformists and centrists, while the conservative vote was split between five candidates. The president-elect recently affirmed a proposal that the 2003 fatwa banning the development of nuclear weapons be turned into a secular document binding the Iranian government. It’s hoped that Rouhani’s election will also help ease tensions between Sunnis and Shi‘as in Syria and Iraq (Guardian, June 16).