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September 21, 2005

Reports, Shoots, and Leaves

While reading through Elements of Journalism, specifically Ch.4, I was appalled to read the development in sensationalism versus factual reporting. Granted, I wasn't naive to these concepts; however, today's class forced me to open my eyes a bit more.

The Trib's above fold featured a dramatic headline and disastrous photo. Although these two were unrelated, I couldn't help but continue to wonder about their placement.

If the newspaper is designed to attract our attention and offer the reader "quick news," won't we psychologically (and for that matter, automatically) connect the two? Any time I read "Rita halts reopening of city," I refer back to the photo of flames. Likewise, when reading " N. Korea backpedals on nuke breakthrough." In my mind, I still envision flames and destruction.

Despite the ambiguous headline, the writer performs an excellent job of refraining from panicking the audience. Had this been a television broadcast, I don't believe the same would occur.

Instead, like tonight's coverage of Flight 292 in Los Angeles, the viewer would have been forced to hang on every word. The media unfortunately wraps themselves around the sensation that they are covering current news. Yes, the media must cover these incidents; yet, is it fair to the individuals involved and their loved-ones?

Television reports, films a few shoots, repeats, and then breaks for commercials, leaving the audience in suspense. I'm left thinking "What will happen while I'm watching a Chevrolet commercial?" Why should people bother to be put through this "game?"

More so, what occurs when the story's conclusion is far from over? Jae-Soon Chang provided some assurance and contained the sensationalism within his article. Yet, it still manages to keep my attention as I look for further details elsewhere.

Posted by BethanyHutira at September 21, 2005 09:40 PM


Reports, Shoots, and Leaves...please do NOT tell me your a fan of Eat,Shoots and Leaves..?! poor thing

Posted by: Lou Gagliardi at September 23, 2005 11:52 PM

Actually, I'm not a "poor thing" because I am not a fan of the book- in fact, I've never read it. I only hoped the pun on the title would attract readers to the blog entry. I guess it didn't work.

Posted by: Bethany at September 24, 2005 11:08 AM

Since the reporter has no idea how long the headline has to be, someone else almost always writes the headlines. As an undergrad, I remmember writing a mixed review of a play that I generally liked, but the author of the headline put a much more negative slant on the review.

But your'e right -- the flames on the front page do indeed set up an emotional context, such that a pleasant photo of a kid licking an ice ceam cone at a county fair would just look wrong next to it.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at September 24, 2005 04:50 PM

The emotional context still puzzles me Dr. Jerz, becuase how can this occur under such time restraints?

I recall our dicussion after Wednesday's class about the shift in focus (i.e. facts to business)within the past 20 years. While that shift occured, I can imagine it would be possible to train employees to design a copy layout which envokes emotions.

People working during these changes adapted to those ideas and now perform them without conscious thought. Makes a person wonder what process will occur to return news writing to pure facts, rather than a commodity?

Granted, yes, there are those journalists who refuse to convert to that level. But, in the end, which sides overrules?

Posted by: Bethany at September 25, 2005 12:39 PM

From a techinal standpoint, I get a little discouraged when reading the newspaper. I understand there is limited space, but once I get into an article, I end up have to search for the conclusion. Or, I'll be attracted to a photo, and have to go adventuring for the corresponding story.

Posted by: Katie Lambert at September 25, 2005 07:36 PM

Bethany, good journalists are still doing good work. But people now have so many other ways to get information -- just just TV and radio, but cell phones and web sites. I'd say that most of the reporters themselves are doing reporting because they love it, not because they're looking for a buck.

Now that many of the locally-owned papers have been bought up by big national and even international conglomerates, the big companies want big money out of their papers. They're not satisifed with a paper that serves its community well and earns its owner a fair living.

Katie, the newspaper owners hope that you'll glance on an advertisement as you flip through the pages looking for the rest of the story.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at September 25, 2005 09:49 PM

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