Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Student Sentenced for Eco-Vandalism

Both ran stories on a graduate student who was sentenced to prison for helping to vandalize and burn sport utility vehicles. CNN ran a Reuters story while Fox ran an AP story. The articles are similar but there are some minor differences that reflect biases with regard to the environment. Certainly neither article and neither organization would condone the actions of William Cottrell; but, CNN is slightly more sympathetic to Cottrell.

First of all, in the opening sentence CNN refers to Cottrell as an “aspiring physicist” which sounds more prestigious than Fox’s “Caltech graduate student.” CNN talks of his “role in a spree of arson and vandalism” whereas Fox uses the mush harsher “helping to firebomb” the cars. CNN uses “gas-guzzling Hummers and other sports utility vehicles” whereas Fox leaves out the adjectives and just says “sport utility vehicles.”

This was noted by CNN but not mentioned in Fox’s article:

Cottrell's attorneys asked for the five-year mandatory minimum sentence saying that their client has Asperger's syndrome -- a form of autism marked by impaired ability to understand social situations.

This was noted by Fox that was not in CNN’s article:

However, U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner said Cottrell had engaged in domestic terrorism and "we're very, very lucky" that no one was killed in the arson attacks.

CNN has this information from the prosecutor: "The defendant engaged in conduct to send a political message," said federal prosecutor Beverly Reid O'Connell. "He's a scheming, arrogant person who is disdainful of the law and the justice system." Fox made a similar statement but stronger with: “At his trial, the prosecution had accused Cottrell of "arrogance" and a "towering superiority" toward people who did not share his environmental views. Cottrell had testified that SUV dealers were evil.”

Links to the articles:

http://www.cnn.com/2005/LAW/04/18/suv.vandalism.reut/index.html

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,153886,00.html

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

First of all, in the opening sentence CNN refers to Cottrell as an “aspiring physicist” which sounds more prestigious than Fox’s “Caltech graduate student.”

Not to me, or to anybody who knows anything about Caltech's reputation as one of the most selective scientific/technical institutes in the world. Any undergrad at a state college can be an "aspiring physicist." Being accepted by Caltech as a graduate student is far more meaningful.

marcus said...

That's a good point and I wasn't trying to slam Caltech which does have an excellent reputation. I guess my thinking was that "aspring physicist" sounds more someone like a solid citizen trying to go into a noble profession. I think that says something more about the person than just saying "grad studnet" regardless of the university.