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#1573: Labeling of Haiti - Florestal Responds to Gill (fwd)


M. Gill wrote:

"i think it fair to say that (a) a majority of them are
assigned the piece, and use the "poorest country in the western hemisphere"
phrase as nothing more than a "filler" to their article, in that most
probably assume the average reader knows little if anything about
Haiti......and (b) have no denigration in mind....."

Using "fillers," such as geographical and historical facts that do not change 
is a necessary tool when the intent is to bring a less informed reader up to 
speed with the story. Demographic data, when properly referenced and timed, 
also may inform the reader not well versed in a subject.  Information that 
changes, such as the economic situation of the country or its ranking among 
military powers just to name a few, constantly changes. When fillers, that 
may no longer be true, are used without verification, the journalist is 
avoiding research, investigation, verification of sources etc. Do you think 
that those journalists, every time they write THE PHRASE go verifying latest 
statistics in the world confirming Haiti is still the poorest country in the 
Western Hemisphere? My guess is that they don't. They just guess it is still 
true. Would you call this asserting as a fact a statement that is guessed? I 

The problem with that kind of journalism is similar to bad medicine. It hurts 
people. I am not suggesting it is done with malicious intent, it is just to 
save them time when the injured people have little means to defend themselves 
against it. Because the intent is not to hurt does not make it right. When 
journalists use fillers like THE PHRASE, they reinforce or create perceptions 
that convert into prejudicial attitudes of their readers. When we inform 
those journalists of the unintended consequences of their actions, we are 
helping them. Good journalists make an effort not to be defensive about 
constructive criticism. The reason is that it makes them better journalists.