Thursday, March 08, 2007

On Jumping to Conclusions

For journalists, it's easy to jump to conclusions. One hears some information and because he/she has heard something similar before, he/she thinks that the same thing is happening again. However, especially those writing stories about other people's personal affairs must pay particular attention to avoid that mistake.

Stories are about details, too. It's not difficult to notice them and write them down, but it is much harder to explain why those details are important to the story. Thus, reporters have to find out what the details are about. If someone is wearing a cross on a little golden chain, one would easily assume that he or she is a Catholic. But what if that's not so? What if these cross has a different meaning? What if it belonged to the person's late mother and he/she is wearing it to remember her?

There was a story in the newspaper today about an Italian woman who decided to have an abortion because some medical examinations results revealed that there is something terribly wrong with her fetus. Only after the abortion the doctors saw that the fetus was healthy. The article made it sound that the mother went against the recommendations of her doctors and decided for abortion although they suggested that they do some additional tests. Such stories are very emotional and probably anyone who reads them has an opinion on what happened. The problem with this story is that no one explained the reasons behind the woman's decision. Because of that the readers can jump to conclusion that the woman was at least an irresponsible and selfish mother. But we don't know why she made that decision. And journalists certainly can not write stories that might imply something that they really do not know.