Iâ€™ve noted a couple times in this blog that editors in the newsroom frequently disagree with each other on news decisions – and I think thatâ€™s healthy. Open debate almost always leads us to decisions that are more sound than those made in a vacuum.
So on that note, Iâ€™m going to disagree with Nick Jungman, our senior editor/nights, in his post below about a headline in the paper today.
The headline (â€œMexican sentenced in accident that killed 3â€) was on a short story on the front page of the Local & State section. Iâ€™m not disputing that itâ€™s correct, and the person is Mexican. But any time you refer to a person only by their ethnicity, as a noun, out of context (which is what headlines often have to do, by their nature of brevity) – the result often sounds crass to a readerâ€™s ear.
I made the same argument years ago at another newspaper about referring to â€œa blackâ€ – a usage that most newspapers (including The Eagle) have stopped.
Though ethnicity is relevant to the overall story today, I can understand why it would sound prejudiced to a reader when isolated in a headline. Nick made the point to me that Mexican is a nationality, not a race. But I think many readers consider it a deeper cultural or ethnic description.
The headline today made ethnicity the single most identifying fact about a person. Would we do the same for others? I canâ€™t imagine us referring to a white person simply as â€œa whiteâ€ in a headline. In this case, â€œDriverâ€ seems to me to be a more relevant headline word than â€œMexican.â€
I donâ€™t think thereâ€™s a right answer on this. But itâ€™s made for several vigorous debates in our newsroom today (three that I know of), and Iâ€™m willing to wager that our readers have similarly varying viewpoints.