26 August 2008

Headline Indicator of Subtle Bias

Here is the headline from the Associated Press: "Pakistan: Top U.S. Diplomat Escapes Gun Attack."

Yes, marauding hordes of wayward firearms descended upon a diplomat from the United States in Pakistan. The attacking AK-47s, the result of Soviet Cold War era radiation experiments gone awry, were not successful in their assault upon the diplomat, but a nearby rickshaw driver was injured.

Okay, as you can guess, I wrote that with tongue firmly planted in cheek. But it goes to my point. The headline shows there was a gun attack. Parse the sentence, it means an attack by a gun. Now, the story could have just as easily been headlined, "Top U.S. Diplomat Escapes Attack."

Once you get into the story, you realize the AP editors have led you astray. There were two men, they were the attackers. And they were armed with AK-47s. And you'll love this language too -- "they sprayed her car with dozens of rounds of ammunition."

Back to Journalism 101 for both this headline writer and story author.

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