A Texas minister who reads GetReligion called my attention to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's coverage of a bill to criminalize abortion in the Lone Star State.
Michael Whitworth's tweet to me made clear where he stands on the issue: "How is ending the holocaust of the defenseless 'extreme' and 'cruel?'"
Whitworth's question came in response to the headline atop the Star-Telegram's abortion bill story: "End abortion in Texas? Plan called cruel and ‘most extreme’ measure so far in 85th Legislature."
I replied that I wouldn't attempt to analyze the story in a 140-character-or-less Twitter post. However, I said it looked like good fodder for GetReligion.
Of course, my role as a media critic is not to give my personal opinion on abortion. It's to critique the journalistic quality of the Star-Telegram's report and address questions such as these:
1. Is the headline slanted in favor of one side? What about the story?
2. Is the story fair to both sides?
3. Is the story balanced in terms of the sources quoted, the space given to pro-life and pro-choice voices and the willingness to present each side's best argument(s)?
I'll get to those questions in a moment, but first, a bit of familiar background for regular GetReligion readers: In abortion-related coverage, news stories heavily favoring the pro-choice side are a longstanding and indisputable problem. If you somehow missed it previously, check out the classic 1990 Los Angeles Times series — written by the late David Shaw — that exposed rampant news media bias against abortion opponents. Go ahead and bookmark that, because it remains painfully relevant for people who run newsrooms.
Back to the Star-Telegram story: Let's start with the first question. The answer is easy: Yes, the headline favors the pro-choice side. So does the newspaper's lede: