A lot of spin, not much data in the coverage of the US-Turkey visa suspensions | The Knife Media

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(The Knife Media) Imagine a friend tells you about a disagreement two people are having: “I knew their relationship had soured, but I didn’t know the rift was this major. One day they’re fine, and then suddenly they’re in a major standoff!”

We didn’t make up the terms in red — they’re what Bloomberg used to describe the recent U.S. and Turkey visa suspensions, and the supposed state of bilateral relations. Notice the impression these terms create and how they stretch or shrink the imagination, while actually giving you little or no data about the issue itself. That’s often what spin does in news reporting.

The other three articles we analyzed also used several dramatic terms to describe the news of the suspensions. (For more examples, click here). These outlets called the situation a:

  • confrontation (The New York Times)

  • tit-for-tat (CNN, Financial Times)

  • quarrel (The New York Times)

  • diplomatic spat (Financial Times)

  • escalating visa spat (CNN)

  • growing dispute (The New York Times)

  • escalating diplomatic row (CNN)

  • dramatic downturn (Financial Times)

  • a minor diplomatic tiff [that] threatened to flare into a full diplomatic standoff (The New York Times)

Compare those spin terms to the two data points we gathered across the four articles: One, the U.S.’ visa suspension doesn’t mean Turkish citizens are barred from entering the country; the ban only applies to new visa applications filed in Turkey. In other words, Turkish citizens could apply for and receive U.S. visas outside of Turkey. Two, the U.S.’ suspension is “unprecedented” for Turkey, with no such occurrence in “decades,” according to a former Turkish ambassador to the E.U. (For information on other visa suspensions the U.S. has enacted, read our Context section below.)

The dramatic descriptions above don’t compare to the data in terms of informing us about the situation. That’s the trade-off between sensationalism and fact-based reporting.

Written by Leah Mottishaw and Ivy Nevares

Edited by Ivy Nevares and Jens Erik Gould

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