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Hiding Humanity in Accident Reports

The article Hiding Humanity: Verbal and Visual Ethics in Accident Reports by Sam Dragga and Dan Voss, proposes adding a touch of “humanity” to accident reports. It explains why not including the victims in the report is biased since technicalities show only a part of the whole picture. It also used three example reports, the TWA Flight 800 on July 17, 1996, the explosion of a pressurized container manufacturing facility in Indiana on June 24, 1997, and the report of the coast guard of the sinking of the Miss. Majestic. These articles were used to show the differences between humanized and non-humanized reports. It also suggests ways how to add a touch of humanity to reports like “adding human dimensions of explosions, collisions, collapses, and failures while not necessarily including grisly pictures of human anger” as was mentioned by the authors. Aside from that, it considered problems and issues that might arise from humanizing such reports like emotions that can distract the reader from the technical side of the report.

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Unfortunately, the proposal is disagreeable since it applies to one side of the audience only. It doesn’t point out the target audience of the report. While it is true that humanizing accident reports does make understanding a situation easier for the average human being, it would only consume the much-needed space in an expert’s report. Experts would rather focus and be interested in the details of the accident such as the condition of the environment and the objects around it at the time of the event and draw conclusions from those facts. These kinds of conclusions have to be very credible so they have to be based on hard facts and concrete evidence and not on human feelings.

Human emotions would tend to get in the way of a proper decision and would affect the partiality of that decision. Decisions made by judges for example are based on concrete evidence and not mainly on the emotions that are displayed by both defendants and accused. The TWA Flight 800 incident and Elkhart incident can be clearly said that these reports are intended for expert reading and not for the public because of the technicalities involved in the said reports. On the other hand, the article that reports about the sinking of Miss Majestic could have been intended for a much wider audience.

Considering the example news releases of the hit and run incident targets the average reader. At first glance, it brought up intense emotions towards the people involved like the victim, the on-lookers, the witnesses, and the suspects. It does have humanity in it just as what the authors pointed out in their article and it is easily understood but there are points which are not included or mentioned in the news releases: there is very little description about the two vehicles involved, especially the dark-colored Honda which hit the victim. The focus is mainly on the victim and only a few on the two vehicles. The video footage released by the police added more intense emotions and is indeed disgusting. The human emotion has already been pointed to one direction only – disgust towards the heartlessness of those who have seen the 78-year old victim, Angel Torres, lying unconscious on the street after being “tossed like a rag doll”. There is no clear statement that explains that someone has made a 911 call to help the victim. Statements like the ones made by Hartford Police Chief Daryl Roberts – “We have no regard for each other,” (Singer, 2008) and “No one came to his aid,” (WFSB, 2008) are examples of partial statements made because of human emotion. Great human emotions can affect decisions. Anyway, the articles use human emotions to grab the public attention so that the criminal be found as soon as possible.

Nevertheless, the rise of modern technology changed the way human beings see the world today. It has made communication much faster and made innumerable information available to the reader. Writing has also changed with the times. Before printed media is only the sole source of information but today, computers, television, the internet are being used as instruments. In writing, it is essential to know who the target audience is. If the target audience is children, the article should be easily understandable to children. If the article is intended for professionals and experts, a person uses professional writing. If accident reports are required to be technical and objective, human emotions should not be included as it would only mislead the reader from arriving at a proper conclusion. Writers should know who their target audience is and must know their purpose in writing. Being technical or objective doesn’t necessarily strip a report of its so-called “humanity.”

References

Dragga, S. and Voss, D. Hiding Humanity: Verbal and Visual Ethics in Accident Reports. Web.

Singer, S. (2008). Video Shows bystanders ignoring Hit-and-run victim. Yahoo! News. Web.

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Hartford connecticut police release video of hit and run; public assistance requested in identifying suspects. We Saw That. Web.

WSFB (2008). Chief: ‘We No Longer Have Moral Compass’. Eyewitness News 3. Web.

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