Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Headline reflects need for more careful word choice

Peace Journalism teaches us that words matter, and that poorly selected words can, among other things, desensitize us to violence. A case in point is the cavalier use of the headline "Hobby Lobby ruling puts Green family in crosshairs" in today’s Kansas City Star and other media outlets.

The offending headline was widely used. A Google search showed the use of "Hobby Lobby ruling puts Green family in crosshairs" on websites belonging to the Associated Press, ABC news, the Arizona Daily Star, and dozens of others.

It’s clear that this headline represents the very antithesis of peace journalism. My colleague Professor John Lofflin, who called my attention to this headline, put it succinctly when he said, “No matter how you feel about the Supreme Court decision on Hobby Lobby, this headline from the Kansas City Star, in this day and age, has got to go. Totally irresponsible. Period.”

Could “In the Crosshairs” in some way encourage violence against the Greens, Hobby Lobby’s owners? This is a stretch, perhaps, but not completely out of the question. I see the headline as part of a bigger picture, one where the commonplace media use of violent imagery delivers an implicit message that there is something normal, or desirable, to putting those with whom we disagree in the crosshairs. 

The Star, along with every media outlet that used the offending headline, should immediately pull the headline from its websites, and apologize for its use.

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