How We Present Information Matters

By Ashton Weis

 We all hope that bad things don’t happen. But when they do, it’s our job to cover them and inform the public. Then the next set of challenges arises: How are we going to present the information? Where are we going to put it? Will this disrespect another group?

One example in the news recently is the young man who committed suicide because of bullying at his school. This story contains many different players and it our job to decide how to portray them, the way we paint in them in the story could define them for the rest of their lives. Here are the ways that four different media outlets portrayed this story:

1. Fox News: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/04/18/iowa-mom-blames-gay-teen-son-suicide-on-bullying/

2. The Des Moines Register: http://blogs.desmoinesregister.com/dmr/index.php/2012/04/18/bullying-and-the-death-of-iowa-teen-kenneth-weishuhn/

3. GlobalGrind:  http://globalgrind.com/news/kenneth-weishuhn-jr-bullied-gay-teen-commits-suicide-bullied-death

4. The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/17/kenneth-weishuhn-gay-iowa-teen-suicide_n_1431442.html

Each one  of these media outlets does something a little different from the last. Fox gives the strict AP story, without any pictures, videos or sound bites. The Des Moines Register takes a little different approach and presents a video with the sister and friends of the victim. They also included some social media aspects. GlobalGrind allows more of an opinionated approach . The Huffington Post connects the story into a larger commentary on bullying.

For the most part, it is easy to see why each outlet used the story the way they did. Fox is simply telling the news, because of its national focus. The Register is much more concerned with the information, because it is pertinent to their readers. GlobalGrind doesn’t usually appear to deal with such hard news, but has a much more entertainment-y focus. The Huffington Post is attempting to show that this is part of a much bigger problem.

The way we, as journalists, present information matters. And it’s important to consider who your readers are in doing so. So, my question is: what message would you want to convey with this story and how would you achieve that through presentation?

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5 responses to “How We Present Information Matters

  1. I would definitely go The Huffington Post route when it comes to this story. I feel that connecting this story to a larger issue, especially with the recent release of the film “Bully,” is the right way to go. This shows people that this is about much more than this one boy, but about all the boys and girls across the country experiencing bullying.

  2. I think that that’s a valid way to view it, but do you think that this muddles the message or decreases the importance of it being about one boy?

  3. I think it depends on what kind of publication the article will go into, and therefor should be tailored to that publications focus. For example, if it were for The Times-Delphic I’d take the Huffington Post route, and talk about bullying on a larger scale, as well as talk about what students could do to help and who they can turn to for help.

  4. I would probably go The Huffington Post route, too. I see the possible issue of seemingly decreasing the importance of it being about the one boy. However, I think his death raises an opportunity to bring up that bullying is way bigger than just one kid, and that something needs to be changed so that others don’t feel the need to do what he did. I think it’d be important to highlight his individual story first, but then branch out the topic on a larger scale.

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