The bodies of eight different people have been found in an area of Long Island, and, like most other news organizations, ABC News picked up the story. But, as the title of this post suggests, I was not very happy with their coverage.
The first thing I noticed was the influx of unnamed sources. Using phrases like "law enforcement officials familiar with the case" and "experts outside the investigation," ABC makes it through the whole first page of the online story without quoting a named source. As a whole, the article quotes two named individuals, both of whom are not directly associated with the case. The Associated Press (AP) story, picked up by the Wall Street Journal, quotes members of the community as well as named experts. They only use one unnamed source, and make sure to specify why the source chose to have his or her name withheld.
ABC News also struggles with other issues. They restate the same information three times in slightly different ways, seemingly forgetting that they already told the reader how investigators found the serial killer's body dumping location. They fail to define "underemployed," a term with which many readers might not be familiar. Plus, ABC News accidentally uses "arraigning" instead of "arranging" in reference to a client of the missing prostitute scheduling a meeting. There are a few very awkwardly-worded sentences in the story as well.
Numerous people with possible links to the four slain women who have been identified have come to the attention of police since the investigation began, the officials said.
This sentence is phrased so oddly that it becomes very confusing.
It appears that the killer usually lures people, then kills them in one place and disposes of the body in another.
Not only does this sentence provide information that seems obvious based on the prior content of the story, but it sounds much like a third-grader wrote it.
One thing the ABC News story does right is the profiling of a serial killer, information that a curious or concerned public would probably like to know. Using information provided by an expert (who actually was named), ABC News gives thorough background information relevant to the story, which was not present in the other stories I read on the serial killings.
By far, the worst "crime" ABC News commits is an assumption without attribution, perhaps the cardinal sin in journalism. After saying police confirmed that missing prostitute Shannon Gilbert's body was not among the remains discovered, they make a dangerous assertion.
The police conclusion suggests that Gilbert is possibly a ninth victim of a serial killer.
Though this is probably a logical conclusion, it is one that should be made by law enforcement officials, not an ABC News reporter. It worries me that an assumption like that finds its way into reporting, when it should be based solely on facts, not conjecture, no matter how sensible that conjecture may seem.
After reading all the other coverage of this story, the article by ABC News left me deeply disappointed in their so-called journalism.