Your View: Viewers Upset with Phrase "Frozen Man"
COLUMBIA - In our coverage of a man's body found on a farm in Moberly last month, we posted a headline to KOMU.com that some viewers found insensitive. In this week's Your View, we take a look at whether our choice of words was acceptable.
The Moberly Police Department said the body, which a farmer found while he was fertilizing the land, had been exposed to the elements and was found frozen.
The headline of our story on KOMU.com, "Frozen Man Found in Moberly; Autopsy Scheduled for Friday" upset some viewers.
A family member of the man called KOMU and left a voice message. She said, "I am calling about the news headline regarding the frozen man... I am very, very disappointed in it. The family didn't know at that point in time that he was frozen. I think it could have been worded different. I think it was a cold and callous and noncaring thing to do."
KOMU has a policy not to use the name of a victim until the next of kin is notified, but News Director Stacey Woelfel says station policy treats the cause of death differently.
"That is typically one of the facts of the story. If you are going to report the story you say someone died of in a car accident, you say someone was murdered, someone died of whatever cause, we are going to end up putting that in the story. It's part of what makes it news," said Woelfel.
Charles Davis, a journalism professor at MU, says the phrase "frozen man" is not ethically incorrect to use, but this can serve as a teachable moment.
"I think you could get with, certainly, the writer of the headline and say 'is there a way that we could have portrayed a deceased member of our community in a way other than "frozen man"?' which is factual, it's true, it's defensible. But there are probably better ways to do it," said Davis.
So what do you think? Should we have used the phrase "frozen man"? Or should we have left the condition of the body out of the story? Let us know on facebook, twitter, or google plus. Then watch friday nights at 6 as we report your view of the news.