When reporting on a press release from the federal government (or anything else, for that mattter), should journalists focus on the good news or the bad news? Here's an example of each approach as two newspapers examine the same Centers for Disease Control report on smoking. Each paper includes the same basic information, but the emphasis is decidedly different.
From the Lafayette Journal Courier, here is the "good news" approach:
If recent statistics are any indication, it seems many smokers are getting tired of the hassle of lighting up.
The adult smoking rate in Indiana dropped from 26 percent in 2008 to 23.1 percent in 2009, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC report and Lafayette-area anti-smoking advocates point to smoke-free air laws and added tobacco taxes as key factors in bringing the rate down.
"It makes smoking inconvenient and can serve as one of those triggers," said Tristan Kirby, coordinator with the Tobacco Free Partnership of Tippecanoe County.
Lawmakers voted to increase the cigarette tax by 44 cents, up from 55.5 cents per pack, in 2007.
And here is the other approach, from the lead of The Journal Gazette's story:
Indiana has the second-largest percentage of adult smokers in the nation, according to a federal report released this week.
The second paragraph does make a passing reference to the state's "significant progress during the past decade," but then it's right back to the bad news:
The Indiana State Department of Health and Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation released final 2009 smoking statistics Friday, the same day a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study ranked Indiana 50th in the nation, including the District of Columbia, for the number of adult smokers.
Only West Virginia had a greater percentage of its population