TED on abortion: How media producers frame social justice issues

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 9.45.11 PM

Now, I sincerely doubt that many people have ever tried to argue that TED is a conservative organization, but it is often attended by incredibly powerful business people and innovators, which is not necessarily a partisan-affiliated professional track. This makes the group’s announcement (or clarification), that they will include and promote the spread of TED Talks about abortion framed as a social justice issue, pretty interesting.

The organization has not made any strong statements to the contrary previously, but TED’s decision to definitively say that it will include abortion as an important human rights issue to be discussed in its forums is an interesting move from a group that fosters new ideas and has a real chance of influencing people who can actively change policies.

On the TED blog, the group said:

“We agree [abortion is] an important issue, and look forward to continuing to promote the discussion of equality and social justice for women.”

I find this to be a more-than adequate response because they have now recognized that reproductive rights are, in fact, a social justice issue that impacts more than half of the world’s population.

As a journalism student with a deep commitment to storytelling, but also a commitment to having some social impact, (I mean, why else do we write?) the ways some news organizations approach social justice issues in an unbiased manner are difficult for me to navigate.

How do I reconcile approaching an issue from an unbiased position, using completely neutral language, when I and millions of other people have a stake in the issue? For me, potential influence I may have is a part of my will to write. But when reporting, I know that turning off my personal stakes in stories becomes necessary—as do most reporters’—and that sometimes sits awkwardly with me.

Obviously, TED is not a news organization, per se. But it has influence on public opinion and acts as a platform for ideas, so I think it’s fair to lend it comparable power. I’m glad that it has chosen a lens through which it will approach reproductive rights and the way it fosters conversation around them. And I think it may be worth considering that more credible sources acknowledge their respective lenses.

News writers, presenters of ideas, producers of content: all of them have individual lenses through which they see “controversial” issues. And I think that, sometimes, their resulting works may lose something by claiming to be wholly unbiased.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s