Lazy reporting #1

Posted in Oh hell no by Nancy on May 17, 2010

Today Americans have a new Miss USA, the beautiful Rima Fakih.

My co-worker alerted me to the news. The first headline he saw was “Brunette wins Miss USA“, on the Stuff website. He likes comparing headlines in different publications (I guess it’s a quirk of being a sub-editor), and the headline he saw on the Herald website was: “Arab woman crowned Miss USA.”

He knows racial or gender qualifiers in newspapers are my number one pet peeve, so we went to town with this one.

Sure, it’s a routine and fairly tepid news item – pretty hard to drag out a juicy angle for the headline. A brunette winner? Alright. An Arab woman winner? Now we’re talking. Obviously Stuff took note of this opportunity to embed a meaningless ethnic and gender qualifier into their story. And what’s a story without some good qualifiers? They have since changed their headline to: “Arab-American wins Miss USA“.

These headlines would be fair enough if her ethnicity was brought up anywhere else in the stories, but it isn’t. So they aren’t anything but pointless qualifiers.

But TVNZ went one step further with their headline: Arab Muslim crowned Miss USA 2010.

But it backed it up: “Fakih is the first ever Arab-American to win the title, the first ever Muslim-American Miss USA.”

And provided some context: “The win is being seen as a welcome event especially at a time when Arabs in the US have been stereotyped in a negative light ever since the terror attacks on September 11, 2001.”

But (as usual) Stuff and the Herald missed the opportunity to make their headlines relevant, or show the significance of those qualifiers to the story.  It would be preferable for the stories to mention something like: “With even US-born Arabs subject to harassment and marginalisation, Fakih took the crown of Miss USA.”

Well, better luck next time.

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