When headlines attack

Donald Trump Greets Miss USA 2010 Rima Fakih

The New York Times media reporter David Carr had a fun piece this week about how headlines have changed in the internet age.

Headlines in newspapers and magazines were once written with readers in mind, to be clever or catchy or evocative. Now headlines are just there to get the search engines to notice.

I don’t know what the excuse is for the headline that ran on this piece on CNN.com earlier this week:

Miss USA: Muslim trailblazer or spy?

So, is CNN a legitimate news source? Or is it simply a provider of unnecessary and inflammatory rhetorical questions? Sometimes I think copyeditors forget that readers don’t interpret headlines the same way as folks in the newsroom do. I’m sure that the headline writer was simply trying to show the range of opinion out there about our hot new Miss USA. But that’s not how it’s interpreted.

And it’s not just about the headline:

As soon as the announcement was made, the labels appeared. She was described as Arab-American, Lebanese-American, Muslim-American. She became the center of controversy overnight after pole dancing photos surfaced and spread across the globe just as fast as an outlandish rumor started by a U.S. neo-conservative blog that she’s a spy for the Shiite Lebanese group Hezbollah, designated by the U.S. and E.U. countries as a terrorist group.

It’s hard to gauge which claim could possibly hurt the new Miss USA more: the racy pictures or the unfounded rumors alleging she is affiliated with Hezbollah. One thing is certain, the Internet feasted on the story and different groups with different agendas jumped on the opportunity this story afforded them.

“To say that she is a Muslim is inaccurate. No Muslim woman can call herself a . . . Muslim and be on stage with her bikini,” Ghazal Omid, a Muslim scholar, posted on her Facebook page.

Whether the fevered speculations of random bloggers should be given such status is another question altogether. Scanning random blogs and social networks for incendiary speculative comments has to be one of the lazier ways to compile a story.

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  • Jerry

    fevered speculations of random bloggers

    I guess I’m a reporter because I can write a headline charging that Fox news is in bed with the liberal media and is pushing Islamification because it’s controlled by Saudi money:

    …Fox is now totally in bed with the Lib Media…

    Fox (News Corp) has Saudi ownership. Supposedly 5 to 10% but probably a lot more. Murdoch probably ha a line of credit of $10 billion from the Saudis as long as he follows the ISlamification script. He did in the UK.

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2517799/posts

    Maybe you should forget about such drivel and start focusing on why the one true internet news source, the Onion, does not do a good job in covering religious issues, especially doctrinal ones.

  • http://www.mormoninmichigan.blogspot.com John Pack Lambert

    While I doubt that Miss USA has any clear connections to Hezbollah, the widespread support for this organization among Metro-Detroits Lebanese Shiites (who live overwhelmingly in Dearborn) is something that would be worth doing a story about, and not treating just as the effect of a frenzied mind.

  • alypius

    This article in newsweek claims that wearing a bikini does not make one a “moderate Muslim” and uses the whole Miss USA thing as a jumping off point to talk about Muslim accommodation/non-accommodation with “modernity”:

    http://www.newsweek.com/id/238313?from=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+newsweek%2FTopNews+%28UPDATED+-+Newsweek+Top+Stories%29


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