One Minute, One Slide: Language defines a story

One Minute, One Slide: Language defines a story

Below is a “One Minute, One Slide” presentation shared by a member of the WalkBoston staff.
Text provided is as prepared for this year’s annual event on March 18, 2019.

Brendan Kearney

Language matters when talking about crashes: A recent study shared at the TRB (Transportation Research Board) Conference titled “Editorial Patterns in Bicyclist and Pedestrian Crash Reporting” examined ways that media coverage of crashes could influence public perception, looking at word choice and agency.

An example from a crash in Boston: You wouldn’t know someone was driving this truck by the initial news report, since “a city-owned truck struck a pedestrian.”

We (politely) reached out to the reporter and station on Twitter, and asked them to clarify that a person driving was behind the wheel in this crash. The news station was responsive, & made changes to the story.

Just as road design influences behavior, media coverage & local reporting influences public perception.

About 40,000 people in the United States die as a result of car crashes each year. This isn’t just about drivers hitting people walking, it includes people both in and outside cars – roughly 350 people die in crashes each year in Massachusetts alone, while many thousands more are injured. We need to reduce illegal speeding to help prevent and/or reduce the severity of these crashes. So a big THANK YOU to all the reporters and news organizations that are willing to take a look at how they are presenting crashes. Local reporting helps shine a light on common-sense ways we can make our streets safer for people: fixing the way our roads are designed.


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