Thursday, March 31, 2005

"Anti-choice" in headline (oldie)

The Journal-World on January 29, 2004 included this editor's note following a letter from a woman who wrote that the Journal-World should use "pro-life" instead of "anti-abortion" in its articles: "Like virtually all U.S. newspapers, the Journal-World follows the Associated Press Stylebook, which offers this guidance: 'Use anti-abortion instead of pro-life and abortion-rights instead of pro-abortion or pro-choice.'"

The editor's note is exactly right about the AP Stylebook. However, when it comes to the abortion issue, the Journal-World doesn't always follow the stylebook. Here's an example from the January 19, 2004 issue: "Disclaimer upsets anti-choice group."

After The Chicago Tribune published two separate headlines in 2003 that included the term "anti-choice," public editor Don Wycliff in a November 6, 2003 column apologized to readers.

"In either case," wrote Wycliff, "the flaw was the same: The perpective of those who define the issues involved in terms of 'choice' was taken as normative, and the position of those whom disagree with them and define the issues differently was characterized in 'choice' terms. The result was two headlines that couldn't have been more slanted if they had come directly from the public relations office of NARAL Pro-Choice America."

When I talked to a representative of the Journal-World about the headline, I was told that since the article came from the AP, that headline probably came with the article. However, I was unable to find another media outlet in Kansas that used "anti-choice" in the headline. For example, the Topeka Capital-Journal's headline was "GOP flier upsets group."

As far as I know, the only other time a Journal-World staff member used "anti-choice" was in a November 1995 article, so it is not a common practice ("anti-choice" appears frequently in the newspaper's archives, but it is usually found between quotation marks). However, the Journal-World should have followed Wycliff's example and apologized to readers for publishing the slanted headline.