Media Labeling Matters

Drew notes that the press can create radically different impressions of reality by how it words things. He notes the varying headlines on this morning’s coverage of the Virginia woman who was kept on life support long enough to have a baby and then removed.

The latter does a much better job of conveying the story at a glance.

Says Drew:

From skimming [first three] headlines, it sounds like the mother held on just long enough to have the baby and then gave up. Sad in a way, but maybe better off in the long run.


Now I don’t know about you, but to me, that conveys a COMPLETLY different story.


[W]hat I want from my news . . . is the truth. Plain, simple, unvarnished truth. After all, if euthanasia is such a good thing, why aren’t you coming out and saying that that’s what this was? I don’t think I’m asking too much of a news outlet to simply show enough respect for me, its readers and even the woman who died to just tell the truth of the matter instead of leading us to think something completely different.

The person writing the headline is usually some junior editor right out of college, not the reporter. My guess is that they were just trying to convey that the woman died rather than trying to cover up the truth.

I didn’t follow the story but gathered that it is something quite different from “euthanasia.” Keeping someone’s body functions going when they’re brain dead in order to save the life of their baby and then removing the tubes is not the same as actively killing them.

Correction made to original.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    And in this case it really was “life support.”

    Best wishes for the father and his new child, and condolences for the loss of his wife.