What's behind this headline?

Mexican man convicted of kidnapping, killing Iowa teen.

Without clicking the link, what do you think it’s about? What does “teen” imply to you in this context? Youth and innocence? Someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time? Yeah, that must be it.

How about “Mexican man”? It’s not enough that he killed a teenager, but he’s Mexican besides! :rolleyes:

A pox on pandering headline writers everywhere.

At first glance, it seems to be about a mexican man kidnapping, and then killing a teen.

“Teen” to me implies 13-19 years of age.

“Mexican man” implies he may not have been here legally? I dunno.

Before clicking link: man from Mexico kidnaps and kills person between the ages of 13 and 19 inclusive, who hailed from Iowa.

After clicking link:You added a word to the headline, namely “man”. However, I can’t see anything factually inaccurate, or even prejudicial, about that headline, unless there’s some extra information behind the story as presented, to which I am not party.

Maybe it’s me then.

I think “kidnapping” implies that there was no connection between the teen and the kidnapper.

The headline would have been just as accurate if it had said “Man convicted of killing teen in drug deal”.

Too many people are going to read the headline and nothing else, and go “Humph, when are they going to build that fence?”

I agree with you there, Auntie Pam. But going by the details of the article, the intent seems to be just to add a description rather than simply say “Man convicted …” If the guy was a Canadian resident, they’d still include the country of origin, most likely.

Let’s break it down.

Mexican: This is probably relevant, as I would guess the number of Mexicans in Sioux City isn’t a substantial portion of the population (I could be wrong, I haven’t looked it up). If it was in a (Mexican) border state or another city with a large Mexican population, I would suppose it becomes less relevant.

Convicted of kidnapping: He was. It’s forcibly removing someone from someplace. This didn’t happen when the kid came up to the man on the street, the kid didn’t go someplace he shouldn’t have (that time). He was kidnapped. That’s relevant, as I’d guess that doesn’t happen a ton in the middle of Iowa either.

, killing: Again, he was. Convicted. For murder, no less. Which also probably happens less in Iowa than other places. A person dies of unnatural causes, and it’s frequently news. A person is murdered, it’s almost always news.

Iowa teen: A teenager who lived in Iowa. 15, so it’s not like he was on the cusp of being something else in either direction. Iowa boy would also have been acceptable.

Your suggested headline is more misleading than the one the Web site used, in my opinion: “Man convicted of killing teen in drug deal”

“In drug deal” is confusing to me. He didn’t kill him “in (a) drug deal”, at least, not according to the article. “Man convicted of killing teen in drug deal” implies that there was a drug deal going down, it went bad and the guy killed the kid. Or possibly that there was a drug deal that involved the man killing the kid (e.g. the drug dealer sent the man on an “errand” in exchange for drugs).

I have noticed that when the victim is 19 or under, he’s called a “teen”.

If a suspect is 18 or older, then he’s often called a “man”.

Yeah, my headline wasn’t much better.

One site gives Sioux City’s Hispanic population at 10%. Not significant compared to cities in the southwest, but significant for Iowa.

Did anyone who read the headline come close to guessing what happened?

I get your point, but I’m still offended by Mexican as a descriptor, especially in a headline.

You’re offended? By Mexican as a descriptor? That’s what it IS. It describes the man. The man was a Mexican.

And Sioux City’s Hispanic population is around 10%. How many are Mexican? There’s a difference. If he’s a citizen of Mexico (not the US) I’d say that’s pretty relevant. Would you expect, say, the Guardian to read “Man convicted of kidnapping, killing boy in London” if the man in question was an American citizen? I’d expect them to work in “American” someplace, and I certainly wouldn’t be offended by it.

I’ve written headlines for a living. It’s not easy. And it gets less and less easy the more people are offended by things. You have to describe things in some manner to get people to read the story – that’s kind of the point. “Person convicted” is just as true as “Extradited Mexican convicted of kidnapping, shooting boy in head, also accused of leading drug ring,” but there’s a medium there.

I’m trying to see it your way. If it weren’t for all the anti-Mexican sentiment around here, it’d be easier. That’s undoubtedly coloring my judgment.

I wouldn’t have blinked at “French citizen” or “Australian tourist” or “African exchange student”.

I get your point, AuntiePam, and I agree to a certain extent with your impression of the likely reaction of a reader upon seeing it. However, I don’t think it’s the function of news people and/or headline writers to try to moderate their reportage in order to influence how people are going to react to the news that they’re reporting.

It isn’t their job to try to tell us how to think and/or cause us to perceive the news in the way they want us to see it. Their job is to report facts, and the fact is that the man was Mexican. It is true that that if the killer had been Canadian or French or whatever that he would have been identified as such with less prejudicial effect, but what else would you have the news media do? Issue directives to their reporters and headline writers that it’s okay to mention the nationality if an offender is from a list of countries previously deemed to be benign in terms of prejudice, and not from a list of other countries which have been deemed by the editor to be suffering from prejudice? And what about complaints that would follow no matter what country the offender was from? I can imagine people complaining that mention of a killer Canadian reflects poorly on Canada and creates the impression that all Canadians are killers, etc., etc.

So in the end we’d be left with a mainstream media deciding for itself just what type of information we’d be allowed to know (I know this goes on now to a certain extent, but generally it’s a matter of paring things down to save space or to keep grisly details out of the story) and whitewashing everything so that no offense could be taken by anyone. Thus all we’d ever see is headlines and stories along the lines of ‘Man convicted of murder’, or ‘Former president Clinton compares Obama’s win to former candidate’s win’, etc.

I recall years ago when racial equality was uppermost in everyone’s mind, and the media began reporting that police were looking for such things as ‘four young men’ in connection with such and so crime, but withhold the information that they were black for fear of adding to the stereotype of black youth as criminals. Needless to say, this did not exactly facilitate the ability of witnesses who may have seen something to come forward, and would-be tipsters had little idea who to be on the lookout for. And it almost certainly resulted in more crimes being committed and more people being victimized before they were eventually caught, if indeed they ever were.

So again, it seems to me that the media’s proper job is to report the facts of newsworthy events, and not to try to be the nation’s moral compass.

IMHO, of course. :slight_smile:

Good point(s) – thanks for taking the time to set them out.

I think I’m getting it now. If the convicted man had been a US citizen, his ethnicity wouldn’t have made it into the headline. Is that right? Because there’d be no other reason for the AP writer to identify his race.

Thank you for taking my post in the spirit in which it was intended. :slight_smile:

And yes, my assumption would be that had the man been an American citizen his ethnicity wouldn’t have made it into the headline (or into the news report itself other than might have been apparent from his name).

You’re quite welcome. :slight_smile:

An individual under the age of 20. Period.

An adult male citizen of Mexico. Once again, period.

There are a lot worse examples out there. Channel 8 is just doing things the way things are done these days, which is regrettable, but should be seen in context.

If you don’t blink at French citizen or Australian tourist, then you should not blink at Mexican (citizen/tourist). You are letting your own PCness color your judgement.

Nitpick. Mexican is a nationality, not an ethnicity.

Oops, how’d that happen. :stuck_out_tongue:

You’re right though, and thanks for the nitpick. I actually welcome them, otherwise there’s no telling where I might wind up.