Real Estate Agent


Journalism 101:

When writing an article, one should always answer all questions that may arise in the readers' minds. 

The Basics are to...

always use the 5 Ws -






Plus the extra one - How?

We've all heard this before, right?  Learned it in High School English Class (or SHOULD have)!

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So...  here's what's bothering me: 


It's been all over the news here in York County, PA, ever since Wednesday night.

The Mayor of Dallastown, PA, Beverly Scott, age 69, was found in her backyard in-ground pool around 8:25 PM (one reporter said 8:20, one said 8:25, and some said 8:30 - ???) on Wednesday, December 8, 2010.

She was found by her grown daughter after she went looking because her mother was not in the house (when she got back after going out for a short time, or when she noticed she was not in the house after about 2 minutes while she was there the whole time - take your pick; both were reported - ???). 

An autopsy was done by the Medical Examiner in Allentown (that's another topic, to be gone into at another time), and the results were released late on Friday.  Mayor Scott was the victim of an accidental drowning.  Drowning I get.  How did a far-away Medical Examiner determine it was accidental?  We're not told that... 

This is so sad!  

I have heartfelt sympathy for Mayor Scott's family, friends, co-workers, employees, and Dallastown Boro which, by most accounts, she served so well. They all have my condolences, especially her family! 

Having said that, I also have other questions that have not yet been answered, and that fact bespeaks the sad state of the art of journalism today (as you may have guessed already from my above comments).  

Good reporting would not leave all these unanswered questions, or would at least acknowledge the questions and state that the answers cannot be released due to an on-going investigation, or have not yet been determined.  

Journalists & Reporters routinely fail to answer all the questions taught in Journalism 101: Who? What? Why? When? Where? How?  If they would only do that, so many questions would not remain in our minds about many things (and by the way, PLEASE, PLEASE stop starting every other sentence with "Now...")!!!

The main question in my mind is why was the pool uncovered?  Pool owners, as a rule, winterize their pools by shocking them and covering them before the cold weather hits.  It just seems to me this was such an unnecessary event; if only the pool had been winterized, she may have survived the fall (if she fell; we don't know).  ...maybe not, but who knows?  I really feel sorry for her daughter about this, but it could be true.  

A secondary question is:  why do the facts in the stories in the two local papers differ from each other?  Even the TV news reports varied.   

A fact is a fact is a fact!  Report the FACTS! 

I can imagine, knowing that she had health problems, that she either tripped & fell, or felt dizzy & fell, or the intake of the extremely cold air caused her to falter & fall, or many other scenarios.  There is no answer to that question, as poor Mayor Scott would be the only one who could answer that one (we HOPE!), and she can't. 

Considering the severe cold weather that night, it would only take a few short seconds or minutes for hypothermia to do its dastardly work, especially on someone who's in poor health and using oxygen, as was she. 

There also could be various reasons why her daughter could not pull her out of the pool before the police arrived (within 2 minutes of the call to 911), not the least of which is the effect of water on someone who is unconscious, and the size and strength of the daughter versus the size and weight of the mother, not to mention potentially health problems of her own. A very simple sentence could have cleared up that one for us.  That poor woman will probably be haunted by and has to live with that one, I'm afraid. 

I could go on, but why should I?  I don't believe we are going to hear the answers to these questions, or we would have already. 

Rest In Peace, Mayor Scott, and God Bless your family, loved ones, and beloved hometown as they go through the arduous process of grieving. 

So sad.  So very sad... 

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You're probably wondering what this has to do with Real Estate, aren't you?

Well, just this...  Words to the Wise:   HOMEOWNERS BEWARE!!!  

Use this sad story and take to heart your responsibility to winterize your pool!  Make sure it is properly treated for winter and tightly covered!  This could happen to you - or your parents - or, God forbid, your children!  Even worse, if another person, especially a child, found their way into your enclosure (PLEASE always have it safely fenced in!), then you could be liable in numerous ways for the injury or death of another who is not in your family! 

If you are selling your house, and especially if you are moving out and leaving it vacant, protect yourself and anyone who comes onto the property by doing all of the above and DOCUMENT it all with notes and pictures, including dates and times.  Better to be safe than sorry later on! 

If your REALTOR® does not insist on this, then shame on him/her!  Find a different one who is more conscious of liability issues (they can be held liable too, by the way).  It is in your best interest to always err on the side of caution in any situation that could have a liability issue connected to it, and it is our job to make you aware of those and advise you about them.

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Now... (Sorry!  I couldn't resist!) sum it up:

Don't leave your readers with more unanswered questions, after they've read what you've written, than they had before you started! 

Collect the facts; report the facts accurately; and answer all SIX of the Questions of Journalism 101!  Answer even more questions if you think of them.  If you think of them, so will others.  

This applies to all writers and everything they write, not just journalists and reporters.


Posted by

Paula Burt, REALTOR®      Keller Williams Keystone Realty, York, PA   (717) 755-5599, Ext 3055

Comments (8)

Barbara Hensley
RE/MAX Properties - Rockwall, TX
Homes for Sale in Rockwall County, Texas

Thanks for the review - all good points.

Dec 12, 2010 07:31 PM
Paula Burt
Barbara: You're welcome, and thanks for being the first to stop by & comment!
Dec 12, 2010 07:42 PM
Ellen Wright Adams
Academy Mortgage.......We are a Equal Housing Lender - Eugene, OR
LoansByEllen- Licensed in Oregon
Paula: I will keep this in mind when writing blogs - thank you!
Dec 13, 2010 05:09 AM
Paula Burt
Ellen, you are very welcome! They are the basic tenets of good writing, and will serve you well. Thanks for stopping by and commemting!
Dec 13, 2010 05:58 AM
Nancy Williams
Coldwell Banker Homestead Group Select Professionals - Harrisburg, PA


I appreciate this post on many levels. I'm just up the way from you--felt so sad and just couldn't make sense of this when I heard about it on the radio.  Thank you for your "lessons to learn from" points, and do keep us informed.

Dec 13, 2010 02:14 PM
Paula Burt

Nancy, Thank you so much for your kind words! I felt the same way you just discribed!  There are still things that don't make sense to me, and some of the "reports" were so contradictory that I finally decided to use it as an outlet for my disgust over the state of the art of journalism in today's world.  And you are very welcome!  I will update as we hear more from the media on this sad event.

Dec 13, 2010 03:33 PM
Michael J. Perry
KW Elite - Lancaster, PA
Lancaster, PA Relo Specialist

I think sometimes that are vague is to spread the story out over several days ????

Dec 14, 2010 12:31 AM
Paula Burt

Michael:      Who knows?  It's just really weird, with this story.  And the state of journalism has definitely gone downhill in recent years and continues to get worse!!

Dec 14, 2010 04:56 PM