Be Accuracy: Journalists Should Avoid Watered-down Language in Reporting Sex Crime


By Emma Yang

HONG KONG – Journalists should avoid watered-down language which may cause misunderstanding among readers especially in describing details in sex crime reporting, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter said Monday.

People don’t feel comfortable to talk about sex crime, so reporters are easily watered-down the language of the report, such as using vague words, etc., which may lead to horrible misunderstanding, said Sara Ganim, a crime reporter for The Patriot News.

In order to avoid misunderstanding, Ganim called for the usage of more specific words. Instead of saying an old man had sex with a boy, reporter could make clearer situation by saying an old man “forced” a boy to have sex with him.

In fact, to report a sex crime issue, journalist should draw a graphic picture to tell readers what the truth and what exactly happened to warn others.

“More information is usually better than less information,” according to Ganim at a forum of Pulitzer winners at a Hong Kong university.

But journalist should also aware to protect the victims and find the balance between the graphic reporting and victim protection, Ganim said, and those cost experience.

Ganim 24, the third-youngest person to win the Pulitzer, the top journalism award in the United States, for series local reporting about Penn State sex abuse scandal that involved a famous football couch Jerry Sandusky and the Second Mile charity.

Ganim also recalled her another report named Swalara Township Man Accused in Assaults on Girls as a bad example of losing balance by using too much vague words, such as “A man forced a girl sitting on his hand,” “touch her more than 10 times,” “touch her and made her touch him,” etc. Those made readers really confused, Ganim said.



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