25 September 2011

Headline Writing 101 - Occupy Wall Street (part 2)

Not to pick on CBS... okay, to pick on CBS.

Here's another one:

‘Occupy Wall Street’ YouTube Videos Show Clash Between Police, Protesters

Except, no, the videos don't show a "clash," and the article beneath the headline doesn't suggest that they do.

From early in the article:
Dozens of videos from the week-long protest have surfaced on YouTube. Many show the hundreds of protestors marching through the streets of lower Manhattan. Others show protestors being arrested, demonstrators yelling or chanting at police and officers trying to barricade streets.

One of the YouTube videos appears to show officers using pepper spray on women who were already cordoned off. Another shows officers handcuffing a man after pulling him up off the ground, blood trickling down his face.

Does that sound like a clash to you? Pepper spraying women who are "already cordoned off"? Unless you define "yelling or chanting" as a clash, this isn't a "clash" - this is repression.

From later in the article:

On Saturday, demonstrators said they were protesting against bank bailouts and the mortgage crisis. The march proceeded uptown along Broadway toward Washington Square Park before moving farther to Union Square Park.

That’s where demonstrators and officers clashed. Police moved in with large rolls of orange mesh, corralling some of the participants and binding hands with plastic zip ties.

So... the "clash" they're talking about is... a mass arrest of a group of people who are walking peacefully down the street.

Even if we accept that the police have a right to intervene in the situation, calling this a "clash between police, protesters" is, once again, a significant distortion of what your own article says is going on. The total number of arrests is now over 100, including arrests for loitering, wearing masks, and (I'm guessing, and please pardon my snark) "being a dirty hippie" (which is, I think, only a criminal offense on the east coast.

The point, though: this is not a clash. This is not an equitable police response to violent protestors. This is violent police repression of peaceful people who are attempting to make their voices heard.

Headlines which suggest otherwise are inaccurate, irresponsible, and incommensurate with any kind of legitimate journalistic enterprise.

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