Analysis: Diversity

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I found a news story about an elderly British man who had been tricked out of thousands of dollars by a smooth-talking middle-aged man who had a history of victimizing old people. I then went to talk to Lois Swenson, a retired senior citizen. I read the story to her and then we discussed it, and she came to the same conclusion that I did on my own -- that any and all stereotypes about old people in this report were no fault of the reporter's, but were simply the way the events played out. The reporter simply reported the facts of the case, and the 88-year-old man victimized in the case happened to be very naive and gullible, a common stereotype of elderly people. However, while the story didn't add any unneeded perceptions and stereotypes, it also didn't work hard to move beyond the stereotypes into something more substantive. This story was simply dry crime reporting, and the reporter just wrote fact blocks about the case.

There was one quote that, I think, did more to make the elderly man look gullible than any other. "Mr. O'Leary said Mr. Watrous was not sure how much money he gave Mr. Price, but the prosecutor placed the total at between $4,000 and $11,650". The fact that he had no idea how much money he had given the man gave Swenson the impression that he did not keep track of his money nearly as well as he should have, which played into the elderly stereotype a bit. However, Swenson also thought that that sentence included some important facts of the case. If the reporter had left the quote out, it might have made the elderly man look less stereotypically naive, but at the cost of leaving out a crucial part of the story.

Lois Swenson, (507)450-6061

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This page contains a single entry by Kim Thompson published on April 8, 2012 6:40 PM.

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