Monday, May 2, 2011

Monday Mention: Today's Headlines

Normally, Monday is dedicated to recommending or reviewing something I've read, seen, or heard to help you choose what you're going to spend your free time on.

But today, with all the news about Bin Laden, I thought it would be interesting to recommend something that a good writer does as much as possible: Let's take a look at what different news outlets are doing with their headlines today. After all, a headline isn't just an attention-grabber (though it certainly has to do that). A headline, though, also has to take an attitude, a tone, an opinion. It mirrors the attitude of those writing it. So, looking at today's headlines is an exercise in discovering how words express our angle on the facts.

Today, the Daily News says: How We Got Bin Laden. An emphasis on "we," probably because this is a New York paper and New Yorkers take the downed Twin Towers personally. And not the simple language: "we got him." No nonsense. We got the job done. Mission accomplished.

MSNBC focuses on the president's role: Obama tells nation: 'Justice has been done.'  The emphasis is specifically on Obama's speech, as though his statement is the most key part of the news. And the bottom line focuses on justice, but in a passive way. "Justice has been done." But by whom? No taking responsibility, as the Daily News did by saying "we" did it.

CNN's lead headline was very factual and neutral: Osama Bin Laden Dead. But the obit headline is Bin Laden, the face of terror. In some senses, that's an analysis of how Bin Laden fits into history. He's the one whose face we know because of all the videos he broadcast. This is actually quite good writing, because it encapsulates perfectly what an obituary is for: to set the person's life and death in perspective.

Fox News focuses on the sccandalous aspect of the story: Hiding in Plain Sight. It certainly is an inflammatory subject. But rightly so, because this is an important issue. How is it that this man was comfortably living in a palace near a military school in Pakistan? And why did our "allies" not tell us about it sooner? Fox is talking on the role of journalist as seeker of truth, not just reporter of it.

BBC's version addresses a slightly bigger picture by mentioning Al Qaeda: Al-Qaeda's Leader Bin Laden Dead.

Al Jazeera is fairly neutral too: Osama Bin Laden Killed in Pakistan. But it emphasizes the fact that someone killed him, and the word "killed" is often used to refer to war deaths, and that tone is continued in the  article.

And the Jerusalem Post emphasizes that the war is not over, which for Israel, it certainly is not: Clinton: US will 'take the fight' to Taliban post-bin Laden.

Interesting, eh?

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