Friday, June 11, 2010

Missing - A Child & Adequate Reporting

This child is missing and was last seen in the circled area of Northwest Portland. The number to call with information helpful to locating him is (503) 261-2847.

With that bit of important business done, allow me a cavil. Suppose a newspaper reported that a child is missing and was last seen at Skyline Elementary School. Would you know where that is?

Suppose I narrowed it down as follows: you live somewhere in the TriMet area -- the three of that "tri" being Portland, Gresham, and Beaverton, Oregon -- common shorthand for the greater Portland area. Now do you know where Skyline Elementary School is?

It so happens that a child has gone missing -- the one pictured above, in fact; and that he was last seen at Skyline Elementary School, which I gather is somewhere in the vicinity of Portland, Oregon, perhaps within the city limits. It further so happens that I live in the TriMet area, and have lived here for over twenty years, and yet I have no idea where Skyline Elementary School is.

I know, I know -- I should maintain a current mental inventory of the approximate location of every primary and secondary school in the greater Portland area. What a callous shit I am for not doing so!

Still, I'll say it: news reports that give "Skyline Elementary School" as the center of an ongoing search for a missing child, but that don't bother to state where the fuck that is -- news reports like this one, this one, this one, and too many more -- do the public a serious disservice. The reporting done for such location- and time-sensitive circumstances should make it impossible for even the most casual reader/viewer/listener to miss the details most useful in locating the missing person.

Sigh. This particular less-than-worthless story seems to be trying to avoid useful specifics on the location -- my comments in brackets:
TriMet buses carried searchers early today from the mothballed Wapato Jail -- where they are staying [Neat! Where?]-- to a base camp on Northwest Quarry Road near a Multnomah County road maintenance shop [I don't have the slightest idea where they're talking about]. That is less than a mile southeast of Skyline School [Fascinating!], where Kyron was last seen about 9 a.m. June 4. [Wow! Date and time!]

At about the same time of day that Kyron was last seen one week ago, officials were stopping cars along Skyline Road [Oh, Skyline Road you say? Off hand, I don't know where that is. Where along this road?] this morning, just down the street from Skyline.
To be fair, not all of the reporting has been so awful -- this story bothers to include relevant details, and the map at the top is from another story from one of the local news outlets.

Timely, unambiguous presentation of details in such cases can make the difference between life and death. Present those or don't bother.

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