Search Results for: victims

Notes

Some Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 Guidance, Specifically About The Word ‘Crash’ #

We’ve had several emails from listeners who believe they heard us refer to what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 as only a “crash.”

“I feel that the use of the word crash in this case is ambiguous at best and in my mind relaxes and deflects responsibility,” one person writes.

“I am dismayed and disturbed by the way that this disaster is referred to as a ‘crash,’ ” says another. “The passengers were murdered, not merely killed. Call it what it is.”

The emailers’ basic point: The word “crash” applies when a plane comes down because of bad weather, mechanical failure or perhaps pilot error — not when it is shot out of the sky.

After looking through scripts from Newscast and the shows, it would seem that some listeners who were offended didn’t hear the words that quickly followed about what brought the plane down. But in at least one case, it wasn’t until half-way into a nearly 4-minute long conversation that we mentioned what caused the “crash” we had referred to in the introduction.

The long gap between the reference to a “crash” and the mention of what caused it makes the listeners’ concerns understandable.

Here’s some guidance, based on conversations involving several editors and a look through various approaches:

As we’ve said in other instances, it’s usually best to convey actions. So, instead of simply calling it a “crash,” describe what happened.

Dave Mattingly began a Newscast spot today this way: “FIVE DAYS AFTER THE SHOOT-DOWN OF MALAYSIA AIRLINES’ FLIGHT 17 OVER EASTERN UKRAINE …”

On Morning Edition, Steve Inskeep introduced a piece with these words: “A train arrived [today] in Ukraine’s second largest city. Its cargo was the remains of hundreds of people. They were killed when a Malaysian passenger jet was shot down last week.”

On The Two-Way, Eyder Peralta referred at the top of his post to “the downed Malaysia Airlines plane”

So, does the word “crash” have a place in this story? “Crash site” is being commonly used to describe the scene. Listeners and readers would certainly understand what we mean when we say that. But Didi Schanche offers this thought: “Wreckage field” or “debris field” are more accurate since it appears the plane did not crash in one piece — but, rather, broke up in midair.

(Memmos; July 22, 2014)

Notes

On Not Talking Over ‘Taps’ And Other Sensitive Sounds #

Everyone’s thoughts would be appreciated on this:

Over the weekend a piece on WESAT had, in the show’s first feed, a brief bit of “Taps” playing underneath while the NPR correspondent described the scene in Normandy.

A producer thought there might be a problem, and our “Style, Grammar & Usage” Wiki confirmed there was:

TAPS music: Do not talk over ‘Taps.’ If you use the beginning bars, please fade down and out. You may start speaking on the fade but do not allow it to stay under you as you read your lines. If you use the final bars of taps, please be sure to end speaking before you bring them up. Do not use as a bed under your read. (Dave Pignanelli, 11/11/11)”

We devote a section of our Ethics Handbook to “Respect.” The guidance on “Taps,” which came after listener input, is in line with our concern about showing proper respect. Military personnel know that when “Taps” is played, they are to “render a salute from the beginning until the conclusion of the song. Civilians should place their right hand over their heart during this time.” Silence is expected.

The question is, are their other types of occasions or ceremonies that might lead us to refrain from talking over the sound?

– The reading of names on 9/11? We have talked over them.

– The choir at a service for victims of the Boston bombings? We’ve talked over them too.

I’m not suggesting we need a list or some sort of rule. But as I said at the top, thoughts would be welcome.

(Memmos, June 11, 2014)

Notes

Alleged, Accused, Suspected: When Can We Stop Using Those Words? #

The murders Friday night in Santa Barbara have once again raised questions about whether we need to keep using words such as “alleged” or “suspected” when reporting about a now-deceased person who has been identified by authorities as the killer.

Here’s my take:

At some point — and we reached that fairly quickly in this instance — it just makes common sense to stop inserting those words.

And as long as we properly attribute what we’re reporting, in a case such as this we don’t need to keep saying and writing things such as “alleged.”

Several constructions could be used, including:

– “The young man who went on a killing spree in Santa Barbara, identified by authorities as Elliot Rodger … ”

– “Elliot Rodger, who police say killed six people before taking his own life …”

– “The young man who investigators say murdered six people Friday in California before killing himself …”

Some questions to ask before any shift in language:

– Has the person been positively and publicly identified as the killer by proper authorities?

– Have authorities ruled out the possibility of someone else being involved?

– Were there many witnesses? (In other words, did dozens or more see this unfold?)

– Is there considerable video evidence? And, as in this case, a long manifesto?

– Has the inevitable confusion that comes when such events happen been resolved? Often, for example, witnesses and authorities initially get things wrong — including the name of the person responsible.

This is not to say that it necessarily hurts to be cautious and slip in an “alleged” or “suspected.” But as we’ve discovered now several times, at some point it begins to raise more questions in listeners’ and readers’ minds if we keep using such words when it’s become obvious that the person responsible has been identified and is dead. A reasonable consumer of our news might wonder if we’re implying he didn’t do it.

What about a person who’s still alive, such as the young man who will be tried for the Boston bombings? He has not been convicted. Obviously, we can’t declare he’s guilty. That’s for a jury to do. We can keep referring to him as a suspect and report about what he’s alleged to have done. But common sense applies there as well. We might say, for example:

– “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who goes on trial today for the Boston bombings …”

– “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who federal prosecutors say conspired with his brother to …”

– “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who could receive the death penalty if he’s convicted of …”

– “Prosecutors say Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother …”

A related note: It isn’t accurate to refer to Elliot Rodger only as a “shooter.” Police say his first three victims were stabbed to death.

But editors here have also been discussing whether “shooter” is even the right word to use about those responsible for mass murders involving guns. I’d like to hear whether you think it can sometimes sound like too “light” a description for such a person or whether it’s one of several words — including “gunman,” “attacker,” and “killer” — that can work interchangeably.

(Memmos, May 27, 2014)

Guideline

We don’t name individuals who have allegedly suffered sexual assaults. #

NPR does not name individuals who are the alleged victims of sexual assaults. There are exceptions at times – such as certain instances when such an individual goes public with his/her identity – and NPR editors will judge these instances on a case-by-case basis.

Guideline

Take special care with minors. #

Be sure to consider legal issues when dealing with minors (generally defined as anyone under the age of 18). An interview of a minor about a sensitive subject requires us to secure permission from at least one of the minor’s parents (preferably both) or a legal guardian. Examples of sensitive subjects include cheating, sexual activity, involvement in gangs or crime, difficult family relationships, probation violation, out-of-wedlock pregnancy or parenthood, victims’ sexual abuse and similar topics that could have legal ramifications or lead to embarrassment. An interview of a minor in a special custodial situation, such as foster care, juvenile detention, or holding facilities for illegal immigrants, requires the consent of the person who has custody of the minor. Utah also requires the consent of both the custodian of the juvenile facility and the minor’s parent.

An interview on a non-sensitive topic (normal childhood activities, sports, book, movies, trips to the zoo, baseball and the like) does not require consent. Generally however, any interview on school premises will require the permission of the school authorities.

In cases where there is even a hint of doubt about whether to get consent, contact our legal team (look for LegalAlert in the NPR internal email address book).

Overview

Accountability requires listening. #

NPR welcomes feedback from listeners and readers.

They can be words of praise that help us understand what the audience appreciates and whether we are fulfilling our obligation to serve the public. Sometimes they are as encouraging as the comment from one All Things Considered listener about a June 2011 report by Howard Berkes on the latest news in the investigation into West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch mine tragedy.

“That coal mine disaster is one of those stories that usually comes and goes in American journalism,” wrote Tom Blackburn of Florida. “In the near future, those stories may even stop coming, since none of the victims were rich and famous, and some of the malefactors are. But Mr. Berkes stuck with it, got to know the real people involved, probably knows more about it by this point than the officials he interviews and is doing a wonderful job of being both a reporter and a mensch.”

But we can learn from criticism as well.