OU Daily update

24 Aug


Two excellent pieces from Poynter today following up the OU Daily autopsy report controversy.

First is this more detailed account of how student editors dealt with the report and the ensuing controversy. The new details have altered my thinking a bit.

Second, is this fine analysis from Poynter ethicist Kelly McBride on the best ways to handle autopsy reports and why careful handling by journalists is so important. McBride is going to be our keynote speaker for the annual Oppenheimer Ethics Symposium in Boise on Oct. 19.

Feel free to weigh in. And we’ll continue our class discussion at our next meeting on Tuesday.



4 Responses to “OU Daily update”

  1. brittanicurley August 24, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

    After reading the more detailed account of the situation, some doors were opened a little wider. I originally didn’t think that posting the link to the autopsy was a bad thing at all. It provides the audience with further information they wouldn’t have known otherwise. Yes some things included on the autopsy report aren’t really necessary to know in this situation, but it was a link, people didn’t have to look at it if they didn’t want to.

    On the other hand, as it was mentioned in the more detailed account, they didn’t introduce the link very well so it could be assumed that some people had no idea it was a link to the autopsy report until they actually clicked it. I also agree that the use of “drunk” to describe Cooke’s condition wasn’t the wisest decision. They could have used better word choice and said something such as “under the influence.” To me that is less degrading in this situation. It’s the little details that get overlooked that can make a huge impact.

  2. Leyalle Donnelly August 25, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    After reading what Kelly McBride had to say, I think I most agree with her on the subject. I think it is a good idea to use the autopsy for good journalism but I don’t think it was necessary to include the link in the text. It is good to include the details of the cause of death so that people are aware of the dangers. If I were writing the article and I really wanted to include the link I would have given the option to see the autopsy report at the end of the page. I would also include a disclaimer before the link saying something like, “For more information on the autopsy report click this link. Warning: this includes graphic details.”

  3. Lindsey Treffry (@_LindseyTreffry) August 25, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

    This is a bit of a stretch for the public’s right to know. But, I think that due to the fact that the paper staff gave the option to click onto the report, those close to the student could pass it by, and those interested in finite details could learn more. It seemed to be a well-written article, not to cause harm, but to inform. The staff did it’s job.

  4. Vicky Hart August 27, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

    I found Beaujon’s explanation insightful and thorough. He included comments from McBride and clarified the details of each decision OU Daily editors made. McBride’s rules for using autopsy reports are practical and seem to cover all potential issues.
    I think the most important point McBride mentions and the deciding factor for a few OU Daily editors is the necessity of linking to an autopsy report. In this case only part of the document was pertinent, and I think that applies to other instances as well.
    McBride also highlighted the value of a label or warning so readers know what to expect from a link. If I worked at the OU Daily, those two lessons would stick most closely with me after this ordeal.

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