W11 Inquiry: An opportunity to consider what is ‘bad’

Through-out this term we have been guided through examples of what ‘good’ media writing looks like. I feel this has equipped me with some useful foundational tools. As we near the end of term we are now being provided the opportunity to look at some ‘bad’ examples of media writing – which is often humorous.

 This week we looked at a Courier Times piece >> http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/woman-stuck-under-train-at-eagle-junction-train-station-brisbane/news-story/3fdffc6978a2cb47b0461d1dbb1177ad

 I found the following problems with this piece:

  • Structural issues are prominent. The piece does not follow the traditional structure of a news story. While I understand deviations from the traditional structure can occur for effect, it is not recommended until one has mastered writing in the traditional structure.
  •  The first three paragraphs did not move the story along. I felt they dealt with the same topic/thought. As I am not from Brisbane, I am not sure where Eagle Junction is but it did confuse me that (I’m assuming) the same location was referred to by three different names: Brisbane, Brisbane’s North Side and Eagle Junction.
  • It would appear, by paragraph five and six, that an update was received during the day stating the woman had been freed and was now in hospital. At the time of adding this information, the article and headline should have been re-written to reflect the changes. This is  because, in its current form, the article is contradictory. Alternatively, this article could have been left as is with a new article written explaining the current situation.
  • The details of this article do not appear to have been checked. For example, it would be recommended to check the publication’s style guide because I wouldn’t think ‘spokeswoman’ in paragraph four would be correct to use, but rather ‘spokesperson’. It would have also been beneficial to the story to add a direct quote from this source to add some details and credibility to the piece.
  • If the journalist needed to use ‘QAS’ in paragraph six, they should have referenced this abbreviation after ‘Queensland Ambulance Service’ in paragraph four so readers did not need to assume this is the organisation being referred to or re-read previous paragraphs trying to find what QAS stands for (as I did).
  • The use of the word ‘flow’ in paragraph seven is misleading and confusing. If trains are delayed, they are not flowing – this is a poor choice of words.
  • In paragraph eight, it is incorrect to say a train is ‘sitting’; a train can not sit, only people/animals can. Furthermore, paragraph eight has issues with tenses. The sentence starts in present tense, moves to past tense then back to present. This makes the sentence challenging to read.

Further analysis of the article can be undertaken through considering the article’s reference to potential self harm. As Mindframe (2014) explains, many considerations need to be made when discussing suicide and self-harm in the media.

  • Mindframe (2014), recommends to not discuss the method of self-harm used in detail as it can promote copy-cat behaviour. This article does describe the method used – placing one’s self in front of a train.
  • Accuracy and balance is important when reporting on self-harm stories (Mindframe 2014). The Courier Times, piece did not provide any balance with regard to self-harm issues. If the journalist felt this element of the story was very important, they should have included  few sentences about the realities of self harm to assist with increasing the community’s understanding of the issue and aid in reducing stigma.
  • Mindframe (2014) recommends to include the contact details of support services. The article did include those.

 References

Mindframe 2014, Reporting and portrayal of suicide, viewed 27 September 2016, http://www.mindframe-media.info/for-media/reporting-suicide#selfharm

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Author: Hil Sinfield

Business and professional communication specialist.

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