Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Journalistic techniques

An article by Rowenna Davis in today's Guardian caught my eye. The article itself is fine, summed up by its heading - 'Our society's immature attitude to young people and sex leaves them ill-informed and at risk'. Can't argue with that.

But take this opening paragraph:

Over the past week, the media spotlight has focused unrelentingly on the darker corners of the teenage bedroom. First came news of a 10% rise in abortions among under-16s. Then there was the "pregnancy pact" apparently made by up to 18 high school pupils in Massachusetts in the US, who are believed to have planned to conceive at the same time. And, at the weekend, headlines screamed about condoms and morning-after pills being handed out to children as young as 11 by school nurses.

There's something seriously wrong with this. Consider the news reports that Davis refers to:

rise in abortions
pregnancy pact
condoms and morning-after pills in schools.

Anything wrong with that? On the surface, no: each relates to the same subject matter. But the problem is that the first and third items are British news. The pregnancy pact is American. It is therefore a completely spurious fact. The fact that Davis mentions it happened in Massachesetts is irrelevant. She is writing in a British newspaper on a British cultural topic. To embellish it with a news item from a completely different country - and the US is, indeed, completely different from the UK, is very poor journalism.

No comments: