Americans are exposed to types of media that have major impacts on our lives: politically, socially, and economically. Since a medium has a direct effect on the way Americans live, we must pay attention to forms of media presented to us in newspapers, television networks, on the Internet, and on the radio. As a viewer, it is our job to determine whether or not the news are slanted in favor of the left or right (more liberal or conservative) and decide if the news are even deemed to be valid. Media outlets achieve this biased representation of reporting through the application of rhetoric. Two media networks, CNN and Fox News have recently covered the George Washington Bridge scandal that has become particularly detrimental to a government official, Governor Chris Christie; each story differs drastically in bias and rhetorical usage. The details of the event are skewed in an effort to lessen or heighten the importance of the scandal and influence the audience in varied political directions through the reporters’ use of quotes by Christie, connotations from word choice, and additional videos or images publicized.
Generally speaking, reporters glean information such as quotes as soon as an event comes to light, but the selection of quotes and analysis of information associated with the news article may vary tremendously depending on which media outlet covers the story. In the case of CNN, the reporter appears indifferent and objective by stating that Christie was “embarrassed and humiliated” by the “abject stupidity” of the perpetrators who caused lane closure. This quote is meant to depict how Governor Christie tried to empathize with the people of New Jersey and portray himself as a victim just like those who had been stuck in traffic on the George Washington Bridge. This impartial representation of Governor Christie is consistent during the course of the entire article. Facts are offered that slander Governor Christie, but are critical to the event’s importance such as car accidents, a death of a heart attack victim in an ambulance that was stuck on the bridge, and the delay of much needed emergency medical services for four days.
In contrast, Fox News barely covers the topic of the George Washington Bridge lane closures at all. Fox News offers a superficial description of the event and lessens the impact of the lane closures. The report claims that Christie expressed regret and sadness for those affected as Fox quotes, “This administration and this Legislature will not allow the work that needs to be done to improve the people’s lives of New Jersey to be delayed for any reason.” Fox News attempts to defend Governor Chris Christie by depicting him as a man of the people and a man of his word. The viewer of this Fox News article would believe that Christie really had no involvement with the lane closures that were used as retribution against Fort Lee’s mayor who had failed to endorse Christie during the mayoral campaign. Contributions by the New Jersey governor are even mentioned to support Christie’s ethos. The reporter cites, “Christie successfully overhauled century-old teacher tenure rules, essentially eliminating lifetime job protections. “which further upholds Christie’s image as a positive force. By including the positive detail at the end of the article, Fox News intends to convince the viewer a final time that Christie is a good-hearted leader of New Jersey who is not guilty of the supposed accusations against him.
Furthermore, word choice plays a crucial role since words set the tone for the rest of the article. To start out, CNN highlights the importance of the scandal with the article’s title: “Chris Christie bridge scandal: a primer.” By calling the scandal a primer, CNN makes clear that the event on the George Washington Bridge is of utmost importance in news. Immediate attention should be given to this article and this is effectively done in the title by putting the words, “a primer” at the end. CNN describes how Christie is often characterized as a “bully” and especially vitriolic when it comes to those who criticize him. The biting words that label Christie have a definite influence on the viewpoints held by viewers after reading the article. These words remain exclusively connected to Governor Christie and his method of governing. CNN explicitly relates the word choice to the possibility that Christie is partially responsible for the bridge scandal.
In comparison, the word choice of Fox News sets a repentant, apologetic, and conciliatory tone that is light in feeling. The title of the Fox News article: “Christie pushes back amid probes into bridge scandal” suggests that Governor Christie is on the defensive and is fighting back with support. By placing the words “pushes back” in the title, Christie is actively battling the consequences that have come from the bridge lane closures including pressure from Democrats, the townspeople of Fort Lee, and critics in the media. He whole-heartedly condemns those in his administration whom allowed the chaos on the bridge to happen. A sense of sincerity can be identified as Fox quotes Christie, “What has occurred does not define us or out state.” Fox News continues to illustrate Chris Christie as an honorable governor who has made profound changes to the state’s government management and policies.
Moreover, the supporting videos or images on the site help define the situation in both the objective and prejudiced viewpoints. CNN posted a four-minute video showing Christie apologizing at the podium of the Statehouse. This allows the viewer to detect for oneself whether or not Christie had any knowledge or involvement to the lane closures like what he claims to be true. Body language and the intonations of his voice permit the viewers of CNN’s website to determine this for themselves. The objectivity of CNN gives credence to the article and adds intrinsic value to the medium.
On the other hand, Fox News included a single image of the governor at the podium of the Statehouse with his hands gestured out. Through the omission of video, viewers are left with little to no additional information that can be ascertained to make a judgment on Christie. This rhetorical approach ensures that the already defamed status of the governor does not get subjected to more discontentment and outrage among opponents. It is without a doubt that Fox News sides with Christie on the situation in hopes that he will be acquitted of all involvement or knowledge of the bridge scandal.
To sum up, the deconstruction of both CNN and Fox News articles demonstrates how Governor Chris Christie’s bridge scandal has been reported with two variations of bias. CNN approaches the report with more objectivity, but has a slight bias against Christie whereas Fox News unwaveringly backs the idea of innocence for Christie. Political siding in media has caused both positives and negatives for viewers of media. Ultimately, it is up to the audience to decide which media sources are more trustworthy and which sources are unreliable. Both CNN and Fox News successfully recount the bridge scandal with bias and influence the audience in different political directions through the articles’ use of quotes by Christie, connotations from word choice, and additional videos or images publicized.