“super anal-retentive nurse practitioners” and sentences like “There was zero mention of this demonic ceremony in the otherwise thorough report,” read as unprofessional.
Thank you again for your call and for having a discussion with me. It gave me a direct understanding of your viewpoints and goals and I have nothing but respect for your desire to address complaints and take criticism into account.
As far as my expertise regarding writing and journalism, I am currently a Graduate student studying English: Creative Writing at Chapman university with a few published short stories and a short list of screenwriting credits to my name. My thesis advisor, with whom I work closely, is noted journalist and author Tom Zoellner. I have also attended symposiums and received personal advice from award-winning journalist Mike Sager.
First, in your article featured in the May 2014 issue I feel that the journalistic standards for reporting on suicide were not upheld. One of the guidelines for reporting on suicide published by the University of Hong Kong Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention is “Don’t report specific details of the suicide method and its procedures, especially the venue of suicide, the tools used, the amount of pills taken, etc.” I feel that this guideline was violated when the method of Diane’s suicide was discussed in-depth on page 20, as well as when the possibility of attempting to commit suicide via carbon monoxide poisoning was detailed on page 21. Below is a link to the published guidelines.
There are other guidelines included in the above publication, such as “The News report should not attribute suicide as a choice of solution to any problem,” that I think warrant an examination.
Furthermore, one of the guidelines provided at http://reportingonsuicide.org/ cautions not to use “Big or sensational headlines, or prominent placement (e.g., ‘Kurt Cobain Used Shotgun to Commit Suicide.'” I feel that bolded phrases such as “The red scarf of death” in your May article and the title “The Mysterious Death of the Gynomint Twins” in your initial article are examples of the type of sensationalism that should be avoided in journalism.
Also included in the guidelines from http://reportingonsuicide.org/ is a warning against “Describing suicide as inexplicable or ‘without warning.'” I feel phrases in your initial article on the death of the twins such as “For no good reason, one fine day, two gorgeous, affluent women, just decided to end it all,” violated this guideline.
I’m not trying to say that I hold Collector Network to the same standards as The New York Times, but these sort of headlines and phrases read more like something from the cover of The National Enquirer when I know your intention was not merely to shock readers. Having spoken to you on the phone I know your heart is in the right place and I am confident you are not trying to be inflammatory with your articles and headlines. I just want to alert you to the fact that this sort of reporting is often seen as sensationalistic and dangerous.
As far as the writing itself, the grammar is good and I cannot take issue with anything of that sort. However, descriptors such as “super anal-retentive nurse practitioners” and sentences like “There was zero mention of this demonic ceremony in the otherwise thorough report,” read as unprofessional. Phrases that show bias such as describing a rumored photo of the twins’ residence as a “noxious image” and referring to word-of-mouth reports as “nasty rumors” are not the sort of thing found in good journalism. There was some good reporting work done here and I feel it was marred by some of the other elements within the article.
Lastly, I have an issue with phrases such as the one you closed your initial article on the matter with: “There are no answers to what caused the deaths of the Twins; but one thing is for sure. It wasn’t the antique business.” While I know that you strongly want to combat a public image of collectors as hoarders I feel there is a time and a place to do so. Stephen J.A. Ward, Professor of Journalism Ethics in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, writes in an article here http://www.journalismethics.info/ethics_in_news/suicide.html “What counts as exploitation? To exploit is to unfairly use people in a less powerful position to achieve your own ends.” I feel like using the details of the tragic deaths of two people to fight back at those who deride collectors as hoarders is exploitative. Again, I don’t think you did any of this with a malicious intent, however, I do not think this series of articles does your character due justice.
I would’ve been happy to display a magazine featuring an article that commemorated the lives of these two women and expressed sadness over the tragedy of their deaths. In an article of that kind I do think there is a way to give a few details of the circumstances while remaining respectful. Sadly, I do not think that was accomplished here.