Media Critique Blog #4

Abortion is a word that gets many people fired up for multiple reasons. Just saying that one word can incite quite a reaction from the general public. The news story “Alabama not the only state weighing mandate for additional info for women seeking abortions,” by Chris Pow of The Birmingham News, is sure to draw quite a few comments from readers. The headline is attention-grabbing and easily leads the reader right into the “good stuff,” the main information that Pow wants his readers to know.

Pow pretty quickly explains what this story is about by explaining that a bill was approved last week that requires ultrasound exams for women seeking an abortion. However, Pow then take a little bit of a detour from the story by saying Sen. Clay Scofield, the sponsor of Senate Bill 12, is planning to rewrite the legislation. Scofield wants women to be able to choose which type of ultrasound they would prefer, instead of being forced to undergo whatever the doctor suggests. This is an important piece of information for Pow to include, because it helps the reader feel like they have more of a say in the matter if this bill is passed in the future. Of course, Pow knows that many of his readers will be for abortion and will not want this bill to be passed. Including that Scofield is trying to help women have more of a say only makes Scofield more likable from both parties, those for and those against abortion.

Pow includes only a few quotes, most of them being indirect quotes. He does, however, directly quote from Scofield’s bill stating that before a women could give her informed consent, she would receive a “verbal explanation of what the ultrasound [was] depicting” as well as “the dimensions of the embryo or fetus and the presence of external members and internal organs, if present and viewable.” Knowing exactly what this bill requires is the most important piece of information Pow could share with the reader. He held off explaining this part of the bill until about midway through his news story. Doing so keeps the reader hooked and makes it even more likely that they will read through to the end of the story since they have already read so much.

The last piece of the news story was about Gov. Robert Bentley, who told the Huffington Post that he had just heard about the proposed legislation and hadn’t been able to study it yet. At first, this seemed like a very strange way to end an interesting and insightful news story. Pow seemed to be ending on a low-key piece of information. But after thinking about it a little more, I can see exactly why Pow chose to end the story in this way. He wisely foresaw that many readers will come to the end of the story already feeling one way or the other about the bill. Closing the story with a quote for or against the bill would turn away half of Pow’s readers. Instead, choosing to end by pointing out what to watch for next – Gov. Bentley’s reaction to the proposed legislation – will keep readers looking ahead. Instead of being turned off, they’ll keep checking back to see what happens next.

Pow did a good job keeping the reader interested and informed while reading the news story. Although there weren’t many direct quotes, which is something I would change if I wrote the story, I was impressed with all the background research he obviously did before writing the story. There were also many hyperlinks throughout the story, enabling me to quickly do my own research. As I walk away from the story, I’m very interested to know what happens next. Though I certainly have my own view on abortion and whether I want the bill passed or not, I walk away knowing that I’ll likely check back every few days to see if Pow has given his readers an update. That is the best kind of writing – the kind that keeps people coming back for more.


You can find the news story here.


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