Head Games with Headlines? Talk Back

It's not just Fox News. All sorts of news media frame our issues--and thus limit solutions--every day. Whether it's deliberate doesn't matter. We gotta speak up.

By Tammy Johnson Jun 24, 2010

*Dear Editor–If the Washington Post wants to continue to be viewed as a credible, unbiased news source, then it must stop using politically loaded headlines like "Most Americans back new Arizona law," as well as discontinue the use of the term "illegal immigrants" and its derivatives. It’s clearly prejudicial, dehumanizing and just plain wrong. Stop it. Yours, ?Tammy J.* Yes, I know. Writing a letter to the editor is so retro. So feel free to add your voice to the battle royal in the comments section instead. Or better yet, [email the ombudsman](http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ombudsman-blog/); his job is to hear from you. Email the reporters, too. Alert advertisers of your displeasure. Stop your subscription. One way or another, let this and any other media know that this type of reporting taints the atmosphere with racism and you won’t stand for it. The Post’s reporting on its own immigration poll is a prime example. Given the content of the poll itself, an the headline could have just as well read, "A majority supports a path to citizenship" or "Majority of people of color oppose Arizona law" or, even, "Majority of whites support Arizona law." The content of the article would support all of these assertions.

There is a steep racial divide on the Arizona question: 68 percent of whites back the law, compared with 31 percent of non-whites. White Democrats are about evenly divided on the bill (51 percent in favor; 47 percent opposed), while non-white Democrats are broadly opposed (24 percent support, and 73 percent oppose). At the same time that a majority of Americans back the Arizona law, most say they support a program allowing illegal immigrants already in the United States the right to live here legally if they pay a fine and meet certain requirements. In the new poll, 57 percent support the option, close to the level in spring 2009 at the 100-day mark of Obama’s presidency.

"General public gets chain yanked by racist media framing" is another possible headline. Is there an anti-immigrant agenda at work in the newsrooms of major media outlets? I don’t know. I do know is that headlines can impact reality by adding fuel to the racism behind hate crimes and bad public policies that hurt whole communities. That’s why we have to talk back when the headlines smack.