We had a good discussion this morning in budget about age as the “frame” for this story about two women who are competing in the Missouri 340 canoe race. I thought the problem was the headline (“Age doesn’t deter Columbia women from competing in river race”). Jeanne Abbott was bugged by the “rounding up” on the women’s ages. One commenter didn’t like that we didn’t talk about the oldest men competing in the race (this reader didn’t like the story at all). Students at budget weren’t offended, noting that the women in the story identified themselves as “grannies” in their team name.
This age stuff can be tricky. Often, people’s ages should be included in stories (better to have the age and not use it than not have it and have an editor asking you why you didn’t ask for it). But when we begin to make assumptions about a person’s capabilities because of their age (or their gender, ethnicity, economic or marital status, mental or physical disabilities) we can offend readers.
This blogger has some interesting things to say about age and who’s reading newspapers (and some observations about two recent New York Times stumbles on this issue). Scroll down to the second item.
Think about your own biases about age. Many of us have them, I think. Being aware is the first step to getting a bad frame out of your mind as you report.
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