News is presented to the public in numerous mediums, including newspapers, magazines, television programs and the internet. With all of these sources providing information, it is obvious that some of the articles or stories will not be as reliable as others.
By being news literate, capable of analyzing news reports and judging their credibility, the news consumer can accurately determine what information should be taken, and what should be discarded as opinion and unreliable. Criteria for good news should be developed and used while analyzing the news sources to determine which are accurate. This can be proven by looking closely at five articles about the recent testimony in a congressional hearing by the president of Toyota Motors on the recent and numerous recalls of their automobiles.
Each discusses and emphasizes different aspects of the widely talked about controversy over Toyota’s faulty vehicles that have lead to many accidents and some deaths. These five articles from different newspapers, Japan Today, Daily News, The Times, CNN Money, and The LA Times, were analyzed in terms of three criteria: high-quality sources, no bias, and telling the whole story. By doing so, it is clear that some are more accurate and reliable than others, with The LA Times piece being the best source for an accurate portrayal of this hearing.
The Japan Today article, written by Kelly Olsen, entitled “Toyota chief’s U.S. testimony closely watched in Japan” (2010) does not use poor sources, but only uses them from one side of the conflict, which in most instances is just as bad as having unreliable sources, giving the piece poor quality. There are no United States officials cited directly in this article which lowers the standard of this article by disregarding their important view on the matter. Also, all of the sources listed state the same idea about how well Mr. Toyoda’s testimony performance was.
One of the quotes included was from Ryoichi Shinozaki, a crisis management expert in Tokyo. He said, “By Japanese standards, he was doing his best. He answered the questions and appeared comfortable” (Olsen, 2010). This shows a concrete example of how this article gives only sources from one side of the debate.
Just by looking at the choice of sources, it is obvious that this piece is biased, which does not improve the value of it. The focus is only on how Mr. Toyoda handled himself in the hearing. None of his responses to the grueling questions he was asked are included in this Japan Today article. No quotes from the actual hearing are included in the article, only dialogue from people commenting on his performance during the testimony.
Koji Endo, managing director at Advanced Research Japan, discussed how Mr. Toyoda “doesn’t seem awkward, he seems to be sincerely giving his responses” (Olsen). Also, nothing positive about the U.S. or its justification behind the trial is ever discussed, which proves the article’s strong bias.
This piece hardly focuses on the actual hearing, thus not telling the whole story and proving to fail all three criteria for a quality, reliable news source. Only towards the end does the article mention the actual effect of the recalls on the consumers. Also, none of the quoted people are actually from the Toyota Motors company. Instead, all are analysts examining how well the president responded to questions.
This can be seen through the previously included quotes from Mr. Shinozaki and Mr. Endo, who only comment on how the president handled himself throughout the hearing. The part of the story that included what tough questions were asked, his exact answers, and possible solutions to this problem is left out completely. By failing all the criteria, this piece from Japan Today proves to be untrustworthy.
The next article, from the Daily News, “‘Sorry’ Toyota chief frustrates pols at D.C. hearing” written by Richard Sisk (2010, p. 3) is another piece that does not display high-quality news reporting based on its sources. In this article, all of the quotes are from United States congressmen, making it a polar opposite to the Japan Today article. The quotes are all taken from the questions that were presented to Mr. Toyoda by the frustrated congressmen, with hardly anything about his responses, not allowing for the audience to see his sincerity and intent to fix the problem. One line from the article reads, “‘Where is the remorse?’ snapped Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio). ‘You didn’t answer my question,’ said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan)” (Sisk, 2010). This shows how the choice of sources leads the reader to believe that Toyoda is unremorseful and uncooperative during the hearing, which is untrue. With the sources coming from only one opinion, thus deceiving the reader, this article clearly fails the first criterion.
This piece is also very biased, failing the second criterion for good news. This bias is mainly displayed through the quotations used. All of them are from people who are upset with Mr. Toyoda, emphasizing what the company did wrong. A quote from Lastrella, who lost four family members in a crash due to the faulty cars is included adding to the emotional appeal against Toyota. She says, “We don’t want another person or family to suffer as we are suffering” (Sisk, 2010). It also extremely emphasizes how President Toyoda rejects the possibility of an electric failure, while immediately after listing how much it would cost if that was the problem.
This implies that the president is rejecting the problem as that because it would cost him a lot more, which makes the audience resentful of him, thus adding to the bias.
Not only are the sources poor and the bias strong, but the whole story is not being told at all, proving this piece from CNN Money to be unreliable news reporting to the public. The article only focuses on what Toyoda did wrong and nothing about his response to fix the problem. All the negatives about how the situation was handled are emphasized to the extreme. There is no mention of how the recalls are working or how Toyota is in the process of getting every single faulty car off the roads and fixed as soon as possible. This lack of portrayal of the good side, along with the poor sources and bias, shows this article is not trusted news.
The Alexandra Frean article from The Times in London, “Toyota turned deaf ear to safety fears, Congress told as carmaker says ‘sorry,’” (p. 55, 2010) also did not have trusted sources, limiting its quality and reliability. All the quoted statements are from Congress, especially Mr. LaHood, the Transportation Secretary. Again, this only displays one viewpoint of the problem, without giving a chance for the others to be seen. Hardly anything was mentioned about Mr. Toyoda’s responses, especially without a negative introduction or response to it, reasserting that this article uses poor sources, lowering its reliability.
Another failure of the criteria is that this piece is the most biased of all five with an extreme appeal for sympathy towards the consumers of the faulty cars, not allowing for accurate coverage of the story. It quotes the 911 call from Chris Saylor at the wheel of a car with his sister, wife, and daughter that couldn’t be stopped and went over a ridge. “We’re going north on 125 and our accelerator is stuck…we’re in trouble…there’s no brakes…we’re approaching the intersection…hold on…hold on and pray” (Frean, 2010, p 55).
This is an example of how Toyota was not attentive in safety protocols, making the situation seem immensely worse. This bias is also presented in the comment about how Mr. Toyoda apologized by “reading from a prepared statement, which had been issued to the media the day before,” (p 55). This implies that he wasn’t sincere in what he said. Although the sources are poor and the bias strong, they are not the only factors in making this piece poor news.
The whole story is definitely not being told in this article, proving to be the third article in which all three criteria fail, making them poor news sources. Only the side of the victims, the consumers, is being told. Like the Daily News article, no mention of what Toyota Motors is doing to fix what has happened exists. The negatives are emphasized on a totally different level with the inclusion of the emergency call. The sincerity of Mr. Toyoda is not disregarded but belittled, making it seem as if that he is not at all concerned for safety, which is untrue.
The third article is from CNN Money article, written by Ben Rooney, titled “Toyota Recall: What took so long?” (2010) uses sources that are also basically from one opinion, lowering its standards as good news. Most of the quotes are from Mr. Toyoda during the hearing. There are no quotes from Congress or other people questioning Toyoda on how the company could have let the problem get as bad as it did. Because the sources are not widespread, the article fails the first criteria.
However, this story is an example of good news based on its lack of bias, making it the first article that passes this specific criterion. The author does not try to persuade the audience either in favor of Toyota Motors or the consumers. There is no clear push to one side of this conflict by ways of word choice or selected quotations, unlike the other articles. One example of this is when Rooney states that “Mr.
Toyoda acknowledged that the company’s efforts failed to live up to its core values and pointed to the company’s plans to set up a global commission to address complaints more quickly and efforts to increase transparency on safety issues” (2010). He also mentions the deaths due to the faulty car mentioned in The Times article, but in a different way. It quotes Toyoda’s apology and condolences to the family instead of focusing on the tragedy of the deaths. By being unbiased, this article seems to be at least partly reliable.
This article also presents the whole story, giving credibility to it as a reliable news source. It displays both the wrongs of the company, the sincerity of Mr. Toyoda’s apology, and his promise to correct the problem. Mr. Toyoda is quoted as saying, “Going forward I intend to make every effort to achieve the transformation and rebirth of the company by making safety and ‘customer first’ the top priority” (Rooney, 2010).
By mentioning the four people killed, empathy for the consumer and victims of the faulty cars is apparent, but doesn’t overshadow the executives’ understanding of the severity and urgency in correcting the problem. This article is one of the better of the five in being trustworthy, good news by passing two of the three criteria.
The Los Angeles Times piece, written by Ralph Vartabedian, entitled “Toyota chief sorry for safety lapses” ( p.1, 2010) is a great example of a good news article with its use of a variety of reliable sources. This story’s sources are from both congressmen’s and Mr. Toyoda’s testimonies. One source the author uses well is Mr. LaHood, the Transportation Secretary, whose quotes from the hearing are used numerous times throughout the article. With the inclusion of various sources it is revealed how both sides were ridiculed during the session.
This article is also good news reporting because there is hardly any bias displayed throughout. It gives many examples of how the Department of Transportation and the president of Toyota were ridiculed. There is no sympathy plea for the consumers as was very apparent in The Times article.
The author discusses how “a wide range of broader concerns about the company’s secrecy” were expressed in the hearing, but also how LaHood “came under tough questioning as well” (p.1, 2010). He does not undermine what either did, nor does he emphasize one’s fault over another. He plainly presents the facts, with no artistic spin on them.
Along with choosing credible sources and being unbiased, the author also presents both sides of the story, unlike all of the previously discussed articles. He shows that both Mr. Toyoda and Mr. LaHood are to blame. Compliments as well as ridicules of both parties are quoted.
The article presents the facts about how many cars and people were affected by this recall and how the company is trying to fix the problem. In this article it is stated that, “Toyoda conceded that in the past all of the company’s safety decisions were made in Japan, but that it intended to create an ‘automotive center of excellence’ in the U.S. and establish a product safety executive” (p.1, 2010). This LA Times piece does not plainly state how Mr. Toyoda is totally at fault or how he did a wonderful job at the hearing, like the Japan Today article does.
When looking at all five articles, it is clear which ones are undependable news, and which are excellent sources of information. The first three articles Japan Today, Daily News, and The Times fail all three criteria. The sources that these articles use are from either one side or the other, but no mixture of them is included. All were extremely biased either towards the victimized consumers or towards President Toyoda. Along with this bias, the articles did not tell the whole story, which makes the credibility of what is being told diminish.
However, the CNN Money article is a quite reputable one. Besides that there was only one source used throughout it, the article passed the criteria of being unbiased and telling the whole story. But, by far The LA Times article was the best of the five. A variety of sources were used from both sides, along with an unbiased approach to telling the whole story.
News literacy is important, especially in a society in which an enormous amount of mediums for obtaining news are available to the public. As can be seen by this case study, one cannot base all of his or her understanding of a current event based on one article. By reading the first three articles alone, the audience would assume that Mr. Toyoda and his company are not remorseful for what happened and are not trying to fix the problem.
However, this is not true, as can be seen in the CNN Money and The LA Times articles. Bias is something hard to avoid in news media because every person has their own opinion on an event that will be reflected in their choice of sources and if they tell the whole story. Being subjective is what all news reporters should be, but it is not entirely possible. By comparing these articles, it can be seen that news literacy is important for all people otherwise, the reader may be duped by an article that does not tell the whole story.
Frean, A. (2010, February 25). Toyota turned deaf ear to safety fears, Congress told as carmaker says ‘sorry.’ The Times (London), Page 55. Retrieved from Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe Database. Olsen, K. (2010, February 25). Toyota chief’s U.S. testimony closely watched in Japan. Japan Today. Retrieved from http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/toyota-chiefs-us-testimony-closely-watched-in-japan
Rooney, B. (2010, February 24). Toyota Recall: What took so long? CNN Money.com. Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2010/02/24/news/international/toyoda_toyota/index.htmSisk, R. (2010, February 25). It’s a recall stonewall.
‘Sorry’ Toyota chief frustrates pols at D.C. hearing. Daily News (New York), Page 3. Retrieved from Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe Database. Vartabedian, R. (2010, February 25). Toyota chief sorry for safety lapses; Akio Toyoda tells lawmakers the firm’s rapid growth may have caused problems that led to recalls. Los Angeles Times, Part A, Page 1. Retrieved from Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe Database.