How to write a news article

It’s unfortunately common that journalists are always so eager to seek out all sides on an issue. It’s this sort of blind following of protocol that has resulted in the anti-vax crowd rising to the prominence it has, or the fact that creationists will often get to spout lies concerning recent scientific discoveries. And do the journalists ever challenge those lies? Not really. It’s apparently enough that we hear what two groups think, even if one of those groups is incompetent.

That’s why I really like this article by Ashley Yeager of Duke. Without simply presenting us her point of view, something for which we have plenty of bloggers and the like, she informs the reader of what happened at a particular event – and she doesn’t ask for the needless opinions of dissenters.

People filed into Page Auditorium on Oct. 3 carrying The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution tucked under their arm. The scene was typical of a lecture given on a college campus, except the instructor was the controversial and outspoken British biology writer Richard Dawkins.

Dawkins’ lecture used no props or PowerPoint slides. For 45 minutes, he simply talked his listeners through his latest book, mixing scientific discussion with scathing jabs. He cited evidence for his argument that “we stop calling evolution a theory and call it a fact.”

He spoke about the family trees that linked all animals and how some would argue that “God deliberately deceived us.” Maybe God did, Dawkins conceded. But if so, “I’m not sure if that is the kind of God you want to worship,” he said.

“You have all the arguments on your side. (Students) may say well my parents, say or my preachers say this. Well, damn your preacher, these are the facts.”

You know when you watch a DVD of a TV show and it has that weird cut where you feel like you’re about to watch a commercial? Well, this is the point in this article where most other journalists would go to some priest or well-known creationist for a dissenting view. I can just feel it. But Yeager doesn’t do that. Here is the next paragraph.

One audience member asked Dawkins if he and religious groups that advocate for many of the same causes as his foundation — natural disaster relief, education reform, among others — could ever work together. No, Dawkins said. At a fundamental level, the two groups’ views would have them debating much more than aiding others, he said.

She just continues on with her account of the event. I love it. This is a good example of how journalism should be done.

Just because there is another side doesn’t mean it’s a side worth hearing.

7 Responses

  1. Strange though, that last statement. Given that you can’t determine whether its worth hearing without hearing it first. At least not without suffering from extreme arrogance.

  2. We’ve heard it. It deserves no more respect in the media than the flat Earth theory.

  3. Mr. Dawkins spits too much vitriol to have my respect. I imagine that goes for many others as well. Regardless of his views.

    Poor Jesse Kilgore by the way, speaking of Dawkins.

  4. “Given that you can’t determine whether its worth hearing without hearing it first.”

    So I assume you believe that in every newspaper article on any subject, we should also hear every other theory, thought and conspiracy theory, no matter how ridiculous, so we can each assess if they are worth taking into consideration?
    After every article on any religion, we should have a brief summary of every other religion in the world, for instance?

    Anything else would be giving a particular belief special privileges.

  5. No its up to the writer.

    Also consider who you want censoring your news? This idea that the “other side” of some issues isn’t worth hearing is more akin to demanding censorship than allowing it.

    Also, news is not published to inform us, it is published to make money, appealing to a broad group is a better idea. Take a look at CNN’s ratings if you want proof of a failure to show the other side.

  6. No its up to the writer.

    Then we agree.

    I don’t think Michael was advocating censorship of the news media. That would definitely be a bad thing. Especially since the Christians are a majority over there, so if any censorship was in place, it would be to their advantage. No, it’s just a little funny (in the completely humourless sense of the word) that it’s always a certain type of nutcases being given way too much air time in articles that don’t really call for their input. That reeks of not being up to the writer but rather determination to brown-nosing the ignorant masses.

  7. The ignorant masses? The great unwashed? Is that what you think of the public at large?

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