Crime stories always seem to have an unmistakable presence in our newspapers. They usually generate an enormous amount of interest among the general public; and no newspaper enterprise dares to ignore them. However, carrying crime news has to be done with utmost care. Poorly written crime news can easily attract trouble in the form of defamation cases and criticism directed against the newspaper entity.
To give the readers an understanding of the right ingredients of a crime story, I have carried out a small study on how crime news are presented on the popular Indian English daily – The Times of India, owned and published by Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. This study analyzes a total of 17 crime stories published from 7 June, 2014 to 13 June, 2014.
Here are the findings:
- The headlines were written in a simple and straight forward manner. Unnecessary capitalization was not seen.
- The body content was free from any grammatical mistakes and the language used was enough for anyone with basic English reading skills to comprehend.
- In few of the crime stories, apart from the main headline, there was a secondary teaser like headline.
- In all the crime stories, the first paragraph was stuffed with the most important part of the news. Nearly every first paragraph contained vital information like when, where, who, what and why related to the crime, giving an indication of the adoption of an ‘inverted pyramid’ style of writing.
- The paragraphs following the first one contained secondary nature of information like background story. For example in one of the incidents involving an ex ACP, the reporter covered a brief background of the ACP’s record during this job tenure, which although was unrelated to the story covered, provided the readers an interesting read.
- In almost all the crime stories, it was evident that the reporters had painstakingly collected as much information as possible either by going personally at the crime scene or through his or her witnesses and other sources.
- In many of the crime stories analyzed, the reporters had included few quotes of either a law enforcement personal or a victim’s kin. This gave authenticity and near true feeling to the story.
- The reporters refrained from glorifying the criminals or making heroes out of them. Also, no sensationalism or cheap gimmicks were noticed in the crime stories, as reporters appeared to have genuinely reported the crimes.
- Crime news especially of sexual nature did their best to hide victim’s identity by all possible means – a matured and responsible approach towards the victim.
- The reading of few of the crime stories also gives an impression that the reporter commands a fair amount of knowledge of Indian penal codes and other legal matters. For instance, in one of the cases when a diamond merchant was arrested for opening fire and injuring the manager of a city pub over a woman patron’s complaint of molestation, this is how the reporter displays his knowledge of legalities “The accused has been booked under IPC Section 307 (attempt to murder), Section 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and also the Arms Act.”
I hope that the above study would have given the readers a close understanding on the right ways to write crime stories in newspapers and also of the right ingredients.