Monday, December 7, 2009

Is The Tennessean a Threat to Journalism?

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="440" caption="It's easy to write inflammatory headlines."]Its easy to write inflammatory headlines.[/caption]

The headline "Is Islam a threat to America?" jumps off the pages of The Tennessean's Sunday edition.

In the words of president's supposed least favorite Christmas show star Charlie Brown: Good grief!

First: The famous question headline bothers me to no end, specifically when you're reporting on highly flammable subject matter.

Second: The subhead has an opportunity for some semblance of balance, but instead opts for the here's an opinion; here's the denial format. Seen here:
Nashville activists warn churchgoers of violent threats to America; Muslims call campaign unfair

Reading four or five graphs into the story, one can find a decent rebuttal that digs deeper than "no we're not."

Lazy. Lazy. Lazy.

The rest of the story goes on to offer some incredibly interesting -- sometimes shocking (local) -- points of view, but I dare say that many people won't keep reading. They'll be happy with the negative opinion they formed from just the headline.

Are Coal-Fueled Power Plants Bad For Our Lungs?

Is The Tennessean a Threat to Journalism?

Is Tiger Woods a Danger to His Children?

Can Sponge Bob Squarepants be Trusted?

All of these headlines plant an opinion in the reader's mind. Rather than opening a reader's mind to various viewpoints, these types of headlines subconsciously, sometimes consciously, force a reader to pick a side immediately by answering "yes" or "no."

Once a reader has an opinion formed, is it necessary to keep reading? Probably not.

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