There are certain stories which are across the board, difficult for journalists to write.
One of these story archtypes is that of a serial killer and the finding of his many victims. This, however, is precisely what the media had to deal with as eight bodies were found in Long Island, New York.
``How much voice, should one put in an article this dark and serious?''
It is important to note, that the CNN does have a quote near the top of the text. Just three paragraphs in we are told:
"We will be looking for human remains and any possible evidence," said Nassau Police spokesman Kevin Smith.
But let's be honest. This is a throw-away quote that does not tell us anything we did not already know or could not be paraphrased.
The second quote in the story is very similar and finds us at the fifth paragraph.
"Our search for (Gilbert) will continue, even though this component of the search is nearly over," Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer told reporters.
At this point, neither of the quotes have had a personal voice, or given needed information. I understand the desire to have an active quote, but these quotes are both throw-aways.
The true voice only comes thirteenth paragraph. Buried after a sizeable amount of information the article quotes the sister of Shannan Gilbert, the missing woman who's search party stumbled upon the cluster of bodies.
"You want to believe everything was OK with her," Sherre Gilbert said. "But at the same time, so much time has passed it's impossible to really think that she is still alive."
Finally, we have a quote from a regular person with an actual voice, besides just the facts.
This is a hard news story, so facts are what make the article work. The facts are simple and are well layed out.
- A woman has been missing since May
- People looking for her stumbled across eight dead bodies
- The search for the woman has turned into the search for a serial killer
- They are still searching for Shannan
The article would have done well to stick with the facts, and the color that the women found were highering themselves off as escorts via Craigslist, and avoid the quotations, unless the focus of the story was on the heartbreak of the family that more women have been found. This was not the case.
As it stands, the article by Fox News on the discovery is much cleaner. It avoids the pointless quotations for quotation sake and sticks to the fact of the case.
The article by Fox gives readers, who have not heard about this story, the information they need to feel caught up. They also took an angle guessing at who the killer may be.
Quotes are great, but quotes need to be strong or they don't need to be repeated.