Ask anyone who was alive during the 90’s with a TV who the “Science Guy” was and they would immediately respond by naming Bill Nye. What may come as a surprise to some people is that Nye is actually a very intelligent and respected scientist, an oft-overlooked fact as he hosted a child’s show on PBS. Bill Nye did not just stop at educating kids, he seems focused on now educating the world. Recently he has taken to debating public figures on various topics, and a few weeks ago that topic was evolution. At the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, Nye went up against the head of the museum, creationist Ken Ham. This was a widely covered news story mainly because of Nye himself and the repertoire he has earned.
Just as there are two sides to every argument, there is also often two sides to every news story. Since the debate was so widely covered, many sources added their own spin as to how it went. Fox News’ article seems more interested in finding a ‘winner’ of the debate and focused a lot on the power behind Bill Nye’s star status. NBC, on the other hand, looked at the debate itself and focused on the remarks given by both debaters. The two sites show their subtle bias in the ways they present the articles.
What is the first—and sometimes only—thing that people read in articles? The headline. It is large, attention grabbing, and gives a general idea about the following article. The two headlines on the Creation/Evolution debate are no exceptions. Fox News went with the headline, “Bill Nye the ‘Science Guy’ debates head of Creation Museum on evolution, earth’s origin” and NBC chose, “Bill Nye wins over the science crowd at evolution debate”. There is clear bias going on in these titles.
Starting with Fox’s, the most obvious part of their title is the fact that “Science Guy” is in quotation marks. That is what Bill Nye went as when he was on TV, but the way that this is phrased does not seem quite right. It is hard to convey sarcasm through printed word, but using quotation marks is usually the popular choice. So already it seems that they are attempting to slightly diminish Nye’s credibility by harkening back to when he was a TV personality for children and sort of poking fun at that. Meanwhile, his opponent, Ken Ham, is not mentioned by name but instead is called “head of Creation Museum,” which seems pretty impressive next to “Science Guy”. One is the head of a museum while the other is a guy.
NBC’s headline is a much more gripping one. It is much simpler and yet more powerful because of one word: “wins”. It is giving the ending before starting so now the audience wants more. More importantly it shows who the clear favorite in this article will be. The second piece of evidence is the fact that the debate mentioned is the “evolution debate,” not the “creation/evolution debate,” or something else along those terms. NBC is showing how throughout the article they’ll be backing the man in the bowtie.
The next thing a reader will look at is the pictures. People are naturally drawn to looking at pictures over reading. The articles, however do not show many pictures. Fox has a small slideshow that shows both debaters, Bill Nye, and then Ken Ham. The picture in which both debaters are present has the two men barely in the picture with only their heads poking up from the bottom. The picture is dominated by a slide in the background saying “SCIENCE” and then an accusation. It works for both sides, really. The word “science” catches the attention and Bill Nye comes to mind, while the accusation is in favor of Ham. The next two pictures contrast, favoring Ham. The shot of Nye is from far away and from an angle, making him seem smaller and not centered. This makes him seem slightly less significant. The picture of Ken Ham has him dominating the photo.
NBC has one large title picture of the Science Guy and then a video of the entire debate. With the title picture featuring a very impressive photo of Bill Nye it is once again clear who the favorite speaker is. In fact, Ken Ham can hardly be seen, even in the screenshot that the video is frozen at. In it, Nye is standing up behind his podium, giving his speech. Ken Ham is in the background, sitting down at a desk, hardly looking up. From the angle and quality of the picture, he looks like David Letterman. NBC made it hard to tell exactly who this man is, clearly showing their support for the Science Guy.
Just like any debate, an article can also have two sides. Of course, it is in the form of two articles, but they both cover the same event. Fox depicts Bill Nye as a victor only by popularity, almost mocking his 90’s stardom among elementary schoolers. NBC shows that they support Nye and almost have forgotten about Ham, were he not crucial to the article. They could have just titled the article in words of Bill Nye himself, “Science Rules!”