Thursday, January 08, 2009

One voice does not a news report make 

I am of course not a professional news reporter. But I think I have some feel for what a news story is supposed to contain. And the way this article from the black newspaper of Minnesota is written seems wrong to me. Lead paragraph:
A current assault case reflects the area�s racial tensions

St. Cloud State University (SCSU) student Douglas Tanner is scheduled to appear Thursday, January 8, in Sterns [sic] County District Court in downtown St. Cloud. His case raises a number of serious questions about Black athletes in St. Cloud and race relations on and off campus that we will examine in the stories that comprise this series.
The story goes on to interview Mr. Tanner, and reports no other sources. (The writer indicates trying to contact Mr. Tanner's lawyer "were not returned".) Mr. Tanner previously agreed to plead guilty to some charge -- it appears to be lesser, but the reporter doesn't offer that detail -- on advice from that lawyer, he says, but now wishes to withdraw the plea and fight the charges.

The problem with this article is that it is entirely told in the voice of Mr. Tanner. The reporter does not talk with anyone else in the article. Though we may learn more as the series progresses, it's unreasonable to print an entire article that is told by one person without presenting any independent verification of what happened in this case. Indeed, considering previous coverage this reporter has given the city and university, one wonders if he will ever provide another side of the story. Let's hope his editor asks that question.