NEWS ALERT! There’s been some more “collapsing” of plans and “plunging into crisis” in Europe — in Germany, to be exact.
If you’re not entirely sure what that means, it may be for good reason. Dramatic, subjective and vaguely defined terms like those in red create strong impressions that aren’t backed by much data. So if you were asked to explain what these terms mean, you might be grasping at straws. See how much drama that just brought in? That’s how spin works.
We looked at the latest coverage of German politics, and noticed some outlets employed more spin than others. What happened is German politicians didn’t reach agreement to form a coalition, and although this has effects for the country and Europe, the U.S. outlets took more creative license in describing it. Here’s a visual comparison of each article’s lead sentence, which is representative of how the outlets ranked in our spin ratings. Let the red lead the way.
Deutsche Welle: 20% spun
“German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Monday that she was ready to take her Christian Democratic (CDU) party into fresh elections after coalition talks with the Green party and pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) failed over the weekend.”
This reports the news sans the spin. Sentences like these earned this outlet the best spin rating of the four.
BBC: 44% spun
“German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she would prefer new elections to leading a minority government, after a breakdown in coalition talks plunged the country into politicalcrisis.”
Terms like these are what raised BBC’s spin rating. They imply negative effects will come from not having formed a coalition, while providing no data to support the implication.
The New York Times: 62% spun
“Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany faced the greatest crisis of her career on Monday after negotiations to form a new government collapsed, shaking a country that is Europe’s political and economicanchor.”
The Times’ wording is even more spun than BBC’s: not only is there a supposed crisis, but it’s also “shaken” the continent’s “anchor.”
The Washington Post: 70% spun
“The sudden collapse of talks to form a coalition government left German politics in turmoil Monday, as Chancellor Angela Merkel reckoned with one of the worst crisesof her 12-year tenure and signaled that a new election is likely.”
The spin here also supports the idea that only negative outcomes are to be expected, which is the main bias of the four articles. Spin often supports bias.
Lead sentences make for a great comparison because they capture the essence of the news. Leads are also important in that, after headlines, they’re likely the first thing you read, so they can affect the way you take in the rest of the information.
Spin can at times be entertaining and, as noted earlier, it can create powerful impressions, but it does little to inform. In this sense, it may be best reserved for opinion and analyses, rather than news reports.
Written by Ivy Nevares
Originally published on The Knife Media