Boothe's 4202 Blog

How the Internet and Technology is changing Editing

What makes a person a person?

with one comment

Case Study 9:

Back in January 2008, major newspapers across the country had to make a judgment call on how to delicately tread the line of reporting and making a statement on the abortion debate.

While the story in question pertained to a 57-year-old Indian man who set fire to an Oak Forest, Ill., apartment killing his pregnant daughter, son-in-law, grandson and his daughter’s unborn child.

Most headlines including those of the Chicago Tribune and New York Times put the death count at three, as most newspapers go by the stylebook definition that an unborn fetus is not yet a person.

Two days after the story ran, the ombudsman for the Tribune said the paper was showing bias by not increasing the number dead in the headline to four. But a Chicago media critic later pointed out that the Trib was just following the standard protocol in the case and that doing anything different would be, in fact, showing bias.

If I were the editor in this case, sure, the easy route would be to go with what the stylebook says and keep the death count at three. However, simply in the interest of the story and a powerful headline, I think including that the woman was pregnant could appease everyone.

For the Tribune headline perhaps: “Grandfather charged in blaze that killed pregnant daughter, son-in-law and 3-year-old grandson”

It’s a little more lengthy and wordy, but I think it is also more powerful to put the relationship of the people involved in the headline. Also, you escape having to include a number in the headline of those dead.

Advertisements

Written by jboothe

April 4, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. However, simply in the interest of the story and a powerful headline, I think including that the woman was pregnant could appease everyone. For the Tribune headline perhaps: “Grandfather charged in blaze that killed pregnant daughter, son-in-law and 3-year-old grandson” YES – GOOD SOLUTION

    Ronald R. Rodgers

    April 4, 2012 at 10:39 pm


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: