Seton Hill Student Dead After Police Incident

Just as I spent the afternoon of 9/11/2001 making a web page, because it helped occupy my mind, I’m spending a few minutes while my daughter is otherwise occupied, observing the phrasing of the WTAE-TV news article:

A Seton Hill University student is dead following a police investigation off campus in Greensburg early Sunday morning. 

The word “following” simply means “comes after,” but journalists often use it as a euphemism for “because of” in situations when there aren’t enough confirmed facts.

I realize that, at the moment, the police probably haven’t released full details about how the student died — maybe it was self-inflicted, maybe he jumped out a window.  The headline refers to “incident” — which is generic enough. But the lead refers to “investigation” — and that’s usually what TV reporters do, make the “investigation” the center of the story, when the story itself is old.

But this isn’t an old story yet — it’s still breaking news. I believe a press conference is going on right now… I e-mailed the editor of the student paper a few hours ago… I hope they got someone on the story right away.

For homework that’s due Tuesday, students in my journalism class were supposed to look at some examples of online journalism. Here’s a very simple slide show about the off-campus shooting incident.