• Twitter
  • Facebook
News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Puff pieces

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


Thu, 04/29/2010 - 7:11am

It's commendable that people are smoking less, but honestly, we all can see what's going to happen.
The states have grown dependent on cigarette taxes, and if enough people quit the habit, something else will have to be taxed to make up the shortfall.
I'll predict it'll be soda pop, or maybe the high fructose corn sweetener used in most soft drinks. That stuff's becoming as politically incorrect as smoking, and clearly isn't exactly health food. Here in corn country, we may find ourselves exempt. Maybe we'll just fire some more teachers.