What do you report, and what don’t you report?
Over at msnbc.com, I’ve written up the gruesome story of a sick person who has coldly and methodically dismembered at least six cats since October and left their remains on a Florida golf course.
The details of the story are horrifying, raising a serious question: How much is enough in a news story?
Here’s what I chose to report:
“Then, on Nov. 17, three more cats were found on the greens. Their paws had been cut off and their stomachs were turned inside out. One of the cats’ body parts were then placed on the fairway as if the killer was trying to reassemble them.”
There are actually much more gruesome details I could have reported. But I held them back.
My goal was to strike a balance between giving enough information to signal the horrifying nature of the story and not giving so much that readers are revulsed and miss the larger point.
Sure, your first impulse on hearing “bloody serial cat killer” is to shudder and browse on. But as the sheriff’s office itself says, this is how Ted Bundy started — by killing small pets. It’s a serious story, and it deserves serious consideration of how you present it.
I don’t know whether I handled it correctly or not. What do you think?