J500 Media and the Environment

Lies of Omission? by IanN

Is leaving an important fact out of a story the equivalent of lying? I am facing this issue with my part of our group’s project. The person I interviewed for a “success story” piece for the LCS’s newsletter was stabbed in the chest trying to break-up a fight at the shelter. After he recovered, he immediately came back to work at the shelter and is completely dedicated to Matthew_LCS_062709_3it.

This is a dramatic story that illustrates what the center means to him, but it might give people the impression that the shelter is violent. As the audience for the newsletter is primarily made up of donors and volunteers, I am leaning towards not including this violent aspect of the story (even though I have a great picture of him showing off his scar). Any insight would be much appreciated.

— Ian Nyquist


7 Comments so far
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I think that it would depend on what the outcome ended up being. Was there reconciliation after the fight? Did this person pursue help after the fight occurred? Pursue the story further, and you may find your answer. The picture alone brings up feelings of sadness and scars left behind. With the right story it can serve as a symbol of hope and of rehabilitation.

-Jenni Brown

Comment by jennibro

Thanks for your comment Jenni. It was a ad incident, but Matthew has made the best out of it and is an inspiration. The guy that knifed him had mental health issues and is now serving a lengthy jail sentence, so that part is pretty tragic. However, the story illustrates Matthew’s depth of feeling for the center and his strength of character. I wouldn’t go back to work at a place where I had been stabbed.

— Ian N.

Comment by IanN


I would think it’s advocacy and not necessarily lying. You have an agenda that you want to push forward and this “messy detail” might mar your otherwise great story.

On the other hand, if you want to be truly objective, I believe you should report that. My belief is that by recognizing and acknowledging your bias towards the shelter, you will have taken the extra step of getting the facts behind the story, and if they occur very rarely, will be able to honestly confirm that.

-Victor V

Comment by victorvi

Thanks, Victor. You make some interesting points. After we visited the shelter and met with some of the people, I felt like it was a good place and wouldn’t want to do anything to harm that. The homeless situation in Lawrence is a passionate issue in the community, so I want to tread carefully. Further, because this is a newsletter, I don’t want to scare off donors and/or volunteers. So, do I settle for a less dramatic article to accomplish this?

— Ian N.

Comment by IanN

Tough one, Ian. I can see the dilemma you’re under. If you can write that up as you’ve mentioned, as a expression of the staff’s extreme commitment to the cause, it may turn out to be a good story, perhaps?

Not to belabor the point, and I’m hardly an expert in this, but I’ve learned that if I get the facts out first, I have better control over the outcome.

Good luck, Ian.

-Victor V

Comment by victorvi

I have already left a comment for another classmate, and you have two here that you may want to reply to, so keep in mind that I just wanted to comment and no reply is necessary.

When I read this I was reminded of things in my own life I no longer share with others due to the response of one individual. While a particular incident never got a bad reaction after years of sharing, one time it did and that stopped me from sharing further. But when balanced against all the good, positive, normal reactions, I shut down over one bad reaction.

My point? You cannot decide for others, you cannot respond to one possible bad response. You have to decide for Ian what is important. Your goal is one thing; keep in mind that each person will respond in a way that is true to them.

Suggestions: I would write, free-open writing, get all your concerns, your insecurities, your passion out on a piece of paper (or in a computer file). Then I would walk away for a few days. Let it jell in your mind; let it sit on your heart. After a day or two, come back to it, to what you wrote, and start over. Sometimes free writing can be like a self-dialog, a conversation between you, your soul, your external influences, and your heart. Let them discuss the issue and then breathe.

There are other ideas flowing through my head: statistics, how many violent conflicts happen in a year at the shelter, in how many of those is a person injured to the point of needing medical attention? Chances are when you get that data; this will be more of an isolated incident, but it may refocus on the incident as well.

Another aspect, one that will diminish the violence but yet focus your story on the shelter and the good it does, is focusing on why this gentleman felt so strongly about going back to help. If you focus on his motivation, the successes he sees, the growth in his life and the lives of those he reaches, the violent act becomes more of a ‘so what’ issue. It will poignantly drive home how deeply he feels about his fellow human being. There are reasons that this dramatic event did not dissuade him from continuing to help and reach out to others.

Just my thoughts, but mainly I wanted to encourage you; even if you do not include the story, it will forever be part of you, and part of him; you listened and that is powerful by itself. Good on you!


Comment by angelajon

Angela, thanks for your very thoughtful comment. I would guess the attack was an isolated incident, but I don’t have any statistics so the opposite could be true. I think Matt very much sees it as a “so what” issue, but I think it is a very noble act. Also, it was a staff member that told me this story. I had the impression that he wouldn’t have brought it up on his own.

— Ian N.

Comment by IanN

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