Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Journalism Requires Three Things: Evidence, Evidence and Evidence

Editors and reporters are not supposed to assert without evidence. If a headline (the editor's part) says "complaints rise," then readers are justified in expecting a line or two in the story (the reporter's part) that shows this is so.

"In the month of September, we had 17 calls referencing people trespassing to pick the berries," the reporter reports a sheriff's deputy reported. What the reporter doesn't report is whether 17 calls are more than the prior month's tally or more than calls during same month last year. No rising numbers here. Let's read on.

"We've only had four arrests this year," the reporter reports the deputy reported. Hmmm. Evidence of rising tide of berry picking complaints or arrests? Not yet.

The next graf produces a non sequitur. Its sentences fail the logical-connection test as well as evidence test: The berries are plentiful during the months of August, September and October. [an editor should delete "the months of" because most readers will recognize that August, September and October are months] This is when the picking begins, but there have been reports throughout the year. "There has been a problem with this for a few years now," said Wilson.

Are the reports of picking throughout the year? And this is a problem how? And, as always, we're still looking for evidence of those rising complaints.

The story goes on to quote a Web site about the herbal-medicinal use of saw palmetto berries, the market price of the harvest (30 cents a pound), last year's crop (3 million pounds), and a factoid: a Naples company ships "directly to the consumer and only charges $5.99 a month." Another non-sequitur -- compounded by the reporter's adverbial opinion, "only."

And the cherry, err, berry on the top: "The majority of the people picking the berries are Hispanic but the economy is bringing out anyone in need of money to harvest the berries," quoth the deputy.

Anyone in need of money? The evidence being ...?

The only things on the rise here are bad reporting and worse editing.

1 comment:

  1. "The only things on the rise here are bad reporting and worse editing."

    I don't know: is there any evidence of *increase* in bad reporting and editing here?