Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Very Different Versions of a Report of Quran Abuse Allegations

The ACLU released FBI documents containing allegations of Quran abuse by Guantanamo Bay guards [side note: CNN uses the spelling “Quran” while Fox uses “Koran.” For the sake of argument I will use “Quran.”]. There are incredible differences in the articles by CNN and Fox. Here are four differences of note:

1. The Headlines. CNN highlights the allegations while Fox highlights the government position. CNN’s headline says, “FBI records: Detainees allege Quran abuse.” Fox is very different with “Gov't: Still No Credible Claims of Koran Flushing.”

2. The Opening Sentences. These are very similar to the approach taken in the headlines:

CNN: Detainees at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, alleged in 2002 that guards mistreated the Quran, according to some of the hundreds of FBI documents released Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union.

FOX: Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said Wednesday there are no credible allegations that U.S. military personnel at Guantanamo Bay threw a Koran down the toilet — despite allegations contained in newly released FBI documents.

3. The Pictures. CNN has one picture and it is of a detainee sitting on the floor as seen through the bars. Fox has two pictures; both are of protestors of the information published in the now-retracted article by Newsweek. Perhaps CNN is projecting more sympathy for the detainees while Fox is perhaps raising the issue of the Newsweek article and aftermath which, as CNN notes, the Bush administration blamed for the violence.

4. The Quotes. The ACLU obtained the documents through the Freedom of Information Act. CNN has 138 words of direct quotes or paraphrasing attributed to the ACLU or its Executive Director Anthony Romero. Fox had 121 words which is similar in length to CNN but the direct quotes are at the very end of the article. The ACLU is mentioned by Fox for the first time near the end of the article whereas CNN has the ACLU in its headline.

Fox has 306 words of direct quotes or paraphrasing attributed to the Pentagon or spokesman Lawrence Di Rita while CNN has only 144.

Links to the articles:,2933,157679,00.html

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