Monday, April 9, 2007

Headlines Versus Reality [SK]

When it comes to abortion debates, journalists are often predictible. The headlines almost always go like this: "Speakers spark anger, controversy" or "Debate turns heated, students offended." This seems to be the case even when the exchange is polite and involves no personal attacks against a speaker.

The coverage of my debate with Nadine Strossen is a case in point. Here's the headline and first paragraph from the campus newspaper:
Pro-life, pro-choice debate heats up at GVSU
Opinions flare as lectureers express views during fire and ice week

Despite the below freezing temperatures, tempers sparked as Scott Klusendorf, President of Life Training Institute and Nadine Strossen, President of the American Civil Liverties Union, debated the polarizing topic of abortion.
What? Tempers sparked? When, exactly?

True, Nadine and I disagreed strongly over the substance of our respective cases, but neither of us exhibited anything close to a temper outburst. Ironically, this same story quotes a student who totally undercuts the journalist's own headline:

"I thought both speakers made some good points and I was glad everything stayed calm," said Charlene Boyd, a student who attended the debate. "When I left I felt better educated on both sides' main points."

I guess well-mannered debates that educate people don't make for good headlines.

(For content related analysis of the debate, see here and here)

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