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Why Do Journalists Use “At Least” in Tragic Stories?

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

Several months ago, as part of my efforts to educate the public on issues relative to some workings of the media worldwide, I did a piece about why journalists use “AT LEAST” in some stories involving death. The article was done against the backdrop of concern that the use of this was a deliberate attempt to boost sale and listenership, or to say it simple, for the print media, “to sell their newspapers.“

Today, I am repeating this based on recent and development in Turkey and the United States of America. It is common knowledge that few days ago, it was reported that earthquake hit Turkey, killing several and injuring others, while search continues for survivors.
One international media institution in reporting the story said,” Turkey earthquake: At least 31 dead as buildings collapse.”

In reporting the Story, the media said, “At least 31 people have been killed and more than 1,600 injured in a powerful earthquake in eastern Turkey. The magnitude-6.8 quake centred on the town of Sivrice in Elazig province caused buildings to collapse and sent residents rushing into the street. Forty-five people have been rescued so far, with more than 20 feared to remain trapped, officials say. Friday’s quake struck at about 20:55 local time (17:55 GMT).

“More than 400 aftershocks were recorded, Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (Afad) said. Rescue teams worked through the night, using their hands, drills and diggers to try to find people in the rubble of fallen buildings. They also brought beds and tents for those displaced, and warned residents against returning to damaged buildings because of the danger of aftershocks.

“Afad said that most of the casualties were in Elazig Province, and deaths were also reported in the neighbouring province of Malatya. Some 1,607 people were Injured by the earthquake, according to the latest count. Reports said an elderly woman was pulled alive from the rubble about 19 hours after the earthquake. Another woman left buried was saved after calling her relatives from her mobile phone and telling them where she was trapped.

In the second story; it relates to the death of an American basketball star, KOBE Bryant, along with his 13-year old daughter and seven others in a helicopter crash. That story’s headlines read thus:” Kobe Bryant: US Mourns Basketball Legend Killed in helicopter crash.”

:A portion of the story reads:” US basketball legend Kobe Bryant has died in a helicopter crash in California, sparking an outpouring of grief from fans around the world. Bryant, 41, and his daughter Gianna, 13, were among the nine killed when the aircraft came down in Calabasas.”

The report went further: “There were no survivors from Sunday’s crash which happened in foggy weather. Bryant, a five-time NBA champion, played for the LA Lakers throughout his career and is considered one of the greatest players in the game’s history.”

In the first story, the phrase, “at least” was used because efforts are continuing to recover some survivals trapped in the buildings. At least is appropriately used because there are claim that some people are still alive and that there is a possibility that if nothing is done to rescue them, they could perish.

Actually, the reason at least is used because of the possibility that the death toll may rise if they are not rescued from the rubbles. If there was no claim that there were no more survivors, then, the use of a least would have not been appropriate.

In the second story about the helicopter crash, the phrase “at least” was not used because there is no possibility of any survivor in that crash as all occupants have been accounted for. Howbeit, if there was a belief that some of the occupants have been taken to hospitals, then, the use of “at least” would have been used. But this is not the case, therefore, it was not used.

To close, let me say that journalists use ”at least” in stories involving deaths because of the possibility of more deaths like in the case of the earthquake in Turkey and not in the case of Kobe Bryant.

I Rest My Case.

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