Natalee Holloway’s Body Found?

Natalee Holloway/ Photo/ FoxNews

Posted by Jessica Anderson

Journalists should know not to jump to conclusions. Getting the facts straight has been beaten into our minds relentlessly since our first journalism class. We’ve all been taught “if your mom says she loves you, you better fact check with dad.” But apparently, some journalists skipped this day of class.

American teen Natalee Holloway traveled to Aruba for her senior trip in 2005. The 18-year-old was last seen leaving a nightclub with Dutch teen Joran van der Sloot and his two Aruban friends. She has never been seen again, and despite extensive investigation, her disappearance remains a mystery as no one has been charged with her murder, and her remains have never been recovered.

After a couple vacationing in Aruba discovered a jawbone with intact teeth on the beach, media sites rushed to connect the bone with the mysterious disappearance of Holloway five years ago.

Articles such as “Natalee Holloway Found, Jawbone from Holloway’s Body?” , “Natalee Holloway’s jawbone found at Aruban beach?” and “Natalee Holloway Found?” have exploded on the Internet.

However, here’s the catch: Dutch forensic experts aren’t even sure the bone is human yet. The bone will be tested today to see if it belongs to a human or animal. If tests prove the bone is human, then it will be compared to Holloway’s DNA.

Media sources have been making quite the leap from this preliminary information.

If the jawbone was in fact Holloway’s, this would mark a major break—final proof of her death—in a case that has been plagued with little evidence, much controversy, and many unresolved questions.

While this discovery may finally solve the case or at least provide some form of closure for the Holloway family, anticipatory proclamations by the media are unhelpful.

Journalists have the responsibility to seek truth, report thoroughly, and minimize harm. Their job description doesn’t include making wild speculations—even if they are optimistic. The discovery of her body would finally allow Holloway’s friends and family to begin healing, but rumor-mongering will only pour salt in their wounds.

As a journalist, how would you react if you received information about this mysterious jaw on the beach? Do you believe that “optimistic reporting”–like proclaiming Natalee Holloway’s body has been found without having 100 percent certainty–is justifiable in sad circumstances?

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8 responses to “Natalee Holloway’s Body Found?

  1. I think this instance is really indicative of the pitfalls of our society’s connectedness. Having news channels reporting 24/7 and journalists updating Twitter and websites every minute of every day, it creates a rush to publish. Instead of checking facts and taking the time to examine, it’s important to post and correct if it turns out wrong. I think this happens a lot, and it’s sad. Journalism shouldn’t be a rush to have a story out on a subject- online sources should still be reliable, and for me this makes them LESS reliable.

  2. I think that reporting like this is highly sensational and irresponsible. Just because sales/hits/views probably will spike because tip received doesn’t mean it should run. The damage caused by irresponsible reporting like this is irreversible. Imagine when her family first heard it framed this way and the sense of hope that at last they could receive some closure: how will they feel if the jawbone belongs to a monkey and people were saying it could be their daughters’? They will have been dragged even further into the hell they must already be experiencing with something so tragic and painful to deal with.

  3. My thoughts drifted to her family, too when I read it Kristin. This case is already such a mess–multiple arrests with no convictions, the confession of Joran van der Sloot that wasn’t used because he wasn’t under oath at the time, van der Sloot’s conviction for the murder of another young woman in Peru…This case just never seems to get resolved. With a complicated and sensitive case like this the media should act in good taste and steer away from sensationalism.

  4. It’s ridiculous to report things that aren’t proven to be true. And it’s really annoying when we get led on as readers to think something is true only to find out that it’s not. I think that a lot of it stems from news sources want to be the first ones to report a new fact in order to get the most hits online or the most attention in the news. It comes as a harmful method of reporting and doesn’t end up getting the facts straight. I don’t think it’s justifiable really. Like other comments have touched on, think of the emotional rollercoaster that the family goes through every time a new piece of news is printed. It’s obscene

  5. I don’t think the actions of these journalists are justifiable. I completely agree with you: the responsibility of journalists is to seek truth and report it. Possible evidence was discovered, but the ‘evidence’ was not deemed fact, was not researched or tested. This information should not be released to the public without proper investigation. This reminds me of tabloid reporters. Why are journalists acting like them?

  6. You bring up a very interesting point, these speculation articles exemplify what irresponsible journalism is all about. They should not jump into conclusions and they should do research before publishing anything. I think that if this were treated incorrectly, the Holloway family might have a negative reaction to all this specualtion.

  7. Thanks for all the comments! I liked the point you made Skylar about it being unfair to the reader too. I hadn’t thought about that, but I know I get annoyed when I buy a magazine promising something on the cover or click a headline and then discover something that doesn’t measure up to what I expected. And coverage like this all feeds into the public’s distrust of the media. Sorry to reduce my thoughts to such an overused comparison, but if journalists continue to cry “wolf” eventually citizens are not going to believe us when it’s real.

  8. Update: The test results came in, and the jawbone is human but it does not belong to Holloway.

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