Saturday, September 13, 2003

Hack Headlines and Fear Fakers

Who the hell wrote the headline to this story?
Is downtown safe?
Recent statistics say violent crime is down, but the reality of reported incidents has the public seeing danger on every corner
Now the shear length of the subheadline is an obvious problem, but could the question be more leading? The only thing more leading could be the classicly poor question to pose in an interview or press conference: When did you stop beating your wife?

The article's point is that even with the reduction of crime in downtown based on statistics, the image of downtown will not change with incidents several assaults and shootings getting hyped up and sensational reporting (I added the hyped and sensational point, I don’t know if the reporter would). This is true, but this paragraph from the story sums up the duplicitous role the media plays:
As city leaders strive to polish downtown's reputation, still showing the lingering effects of the 2001 riots and other setbacks, they recognize that a single headline about a shooting can trump all the positive statistics and other upbeat developments -- among them, downtown's new stadiums, museums and growing upscale residential options -- in fixing an image of the center city.
I have to ask the reporter, Barry M. Horstman , how do you talk out both sides of your mouth? Your newspaper is part of the media that is creating the invalid perception that downtown is unsafe, and your headline (which was likely from your editor) is doing nothing but selling papers and putting fear into the minds of ignorant and easily influenced suburbanites. If newspapers/local TV news outlets want to analyze crime based on anecdotal reports instead of statistics, then they are clearly lying to the public. Now, many would say they regularly lie to the public, but I don’t really think that is true, they just tease with blood, sex, violence and fear of death to get you do watch through the next commercial. I thought newspapers still had a lower level of sales driven editing choices, but it appears that the Post wants you to fear for your life as much as the local TV news programs that will tell you if your child will die, right after this commercial break.

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