Saturday, September 13, 2008

That's Crazy ... But Is It News?

A 22-YEAR OLD WOMAN was driving the wrong way down interstate 476 in Delaware County and she crashed into oncoming traffic. A 63-year old woman was killed.

The Philadelphia Inquirer's story included these details:

O'Neill (the 22-year old driver) is the sister of Sean Owen O'Neill Jr., who was released from juvenile detention in June after being held in the August 2006 shooting death of his friend. O'Neill Jr. hosted a party without adult supervision at his family's home and accidentally shot Scott Sheridan, 17, of West Chester.

Her father, Sean O'Neill Sr., was arrested in June by federal agents who said he had lied about his membership in what authorities called an Irish terrorist organization to obtain a green card. He also faces weapons charges.


Is the legal information about the family necessary? Does it reveal a feeling of suspicion from the journalist?

Or is this good background information for the piece?

A look at the Delaware County Times' story offers insight on how the reporters gathered their information: the police issued a press release.

That raises another question: just because the police provide that information, should you report it?

19 comments:

Courtney Schmidt said...

It seems as if the writer is trying to milk the story for a day more than they are suppose to. I don't believe you have to use every piece of background information that you find on a person, it would be different if the woman had committed crimes before this incident and that is the information the reporter is using. However, they are writing about crimes committed by family members? I don't think that was the right direction to go with the story.

Najee Clancy said...

I'm pretty on the fence with this one. I feel that it is a journalist's duty to report every relating piece to the puzzle but then again, reporting on the family of the 22 year-old woman seems a little excessive and teeters on a privacy breech since her family committed the crimes and this incident is most likely her first offense. It definitely casts her in a negative light.

Pete B said...

I think that in this case, driving the other way on the highway is completely unrelated to this girl's brother and father did. For all we know she may not even talk to her troublesome family members. I can't exactly defend driving the wrong way on the interstate, but truly put something else in there to fill the story, don't try and turn someone into a criminal. If she had committed some sort of intent-based crime, or this was an attempted suicide attempt, then perhaps all the extra background information is useful.

Megan McCue Journalism said...

It is a tough call as it isn't ethical to bring her family into it, but if the police released the information people will be talking about it and someone will publish it. The article is putting the girl in a negative light by saying she comes from a criminal family. I don't think those details were news or necessary.

Alexa Ewton said...

After reading this and the comments above, the first thing i thought of was the whole thing with sarah palin and the rest of the candidates. This is the same situation as that. Is it necessary to run their whole family backround just to put out one single story? This women was driving on the wrong side of the road and should definetely be punished for what she did, but there is not a single reason for the newspaper to tell about her brother and other family members. There is just no point.

Elise Bowder said...

After reading the title of the Philadelphia Inquirer story,"Head-on collision on Blue Route kills 1," one would assume the focus of the story would be on the person at fault and the person who was killed. However, that is not the case. The writer unnessecarily rambles about the woman's troubled family. At least two paragraphs are devoted to the father's criminal past which really has nothing to do with the story. Why would the writer spend so much time on the woman's family yet barely mention anything about the victim? Although detail can make a good story even better, there are some bits of information that should just be left out - especially when this info doesn't even pertain to the story.

Niajee Ervin said...

I completely disagree wih the way this article was written. I do not see the connection in this car accident to her father's alleged terrorist affiliation and her brother criminal record. Honestly it seems to the writer intended to slander her family's name, and to cause the audience to look at this as if we should be suspicious of her motives in crashing her car. I wonder what the writer's motives were in adding this extra info that does not pertain to the accident at all

Cara said...

This article disturbs me a lot. What is the point of this piece? Wasn't it to report on the car accident and death of a 63 year old women? To me it sounds like the article's purpose was to get the general public talking up nonsense. Yes, I believe the people deserve to be informed... but in this way? I think there's a line between giving relevant information and giving too much unhelpful data.

Cara said...

This article disturbs me a lot. What is the point of this piece? Wasn't it to report on the car accident and death of a 63 year old women? To me it sounds like the article's purpose was to get the general public talking up nonsense. Yes, I believe the people deserve to be informed... but in this way? I think there's a line between giving relevant information and giving too much unhelpful data.

Dan Zubrzycki said...

on one hand it might be a good peice of information to have, if the person is a relative of violent people, perhaps they are violent, then again perhaps he was coming to america to escape that past.

Jess Gizinski said...

Journalism is about reporting not interpreting right?
Even though the family's history is considered reporting. I think in this case, it makes it interpreting. It raises the question, Did she do this because there was a history of behavior in her family? or did this just happen on her own without influence. When we read an article, we should raise our own questions, not questions the reporter subliminally puts in our heads.
The point is, while the information reported on the familys history may be okay and simple facts, theyre not facts of what happened with this story, and in turn, maybe should have just been left out.

Lauren Grant said...

There's to much unnecessary information in this story. It becomes boring because there's too much information that isn't relevant to the story.

jessica lista said...

I feel this journalist had a different agenda by putting that kind of background information in this story. If you are going a report on the car crash, that is what the reporter should focus on. It just puts the woman in an even worse situation because now people are suspicious on why she was driving the wrong way.

tony azzaro said...

i feel like this reporter is focusing on the wrong thing here. By putting this kind of information out there, you are now creating a bias toward the woman. She should be judged on her actions and the effects of it, not by what her family has been involved in. Report on the crash, not all this

erica rosenblum said...

i think that the background information is definitely unnecessary. it makes you think that the journalist in the story is skeptical about the 22-year-old driver due to her family's past. i think the real story should have been about how sad and tragic it is that someone was killed over the neglect of a young driver. the other information, although it may interest the readers of the story, i think can subconsciously influence the audience to think a certain way of the driver.

Anonymous said...

I feel strongly that there is a bias here. I think the Journalist was unresponsible. There are many other facts, surrounding the accident that were left out in order to accomodate the unnecessary background information.
Nikki Allen
Jour1111

Anne K. said...

I think it is absolutely ridiculous that the journalist used the subject's family backround information in her story. The family information had nothing to do with the young girl's incident. If something happened relating to me, I would not want my family's backround information broadcast across the pages of a newspaper. I'm sure many would feel the same.

Kristin Kitts said...

What her family has done in the past is very unlikely to have influenced the girl's driving ability-or-lack-thereof. There was absolutely no need to include the information pertaining to her family.

Kenny A said...

The journalist was just doing their best to get someone to read their entire story. You need to keep people's attention and that girl had some family, to say the least. It is what it is.