Following a post earlier this week on xoJane, in which the author describes her ordeal being raped on the campus of Boston University, the school’s (unofficial) newspaper The Daily Free Press has issued an apology for the way it was covered.
“As illustrated by a posting on xoJane on Thursday, the Crime Logs sections of The Daily Free Press has repeatedly published callous sub-headlines making light of serious issues and inadvertently exploiting victims of crime for humor. On behalf of the Board of Directors of The Daily Free Press, we sincerely apologize for these headlines and any other material that may have caused harm or offense,” the statement said. (via Boston Magazine)
Among the headlines, which the author, who chose to remain anonymous, used as examples were:
A female BU student was domestically abused and choked by her boyfriend. “Choked up.”
A man was beaten to the ground and had his head stomped on until he was unconscious and bleeding. “Stomp the yard.” I am sure the victim and his family are touched by this sweet, concerned commentary on his life-threatening injuries in the form of a Ne-Yo movie.
Although she didn’t repeat the headline in question that pertained to her rape, she wrote, “The only description of the title that I will give, so as to clue you in on just how tasteless it is, is that it is a pun involving a popular rap song that describes the sexual appeal of a woman’s body. So, the angle is how rape-able I was? How enticing I must have been? How much the man wanted me?”
Obviously the main takeaway here should be that it’s never OK to make light of a woman’s rape, never mind at a journalistic outlet, but let’s also not lose sight of another problem on display here: the reliance on puns for headlines. I’ve written about this pointless habit a couple of times. Using a pun or a well known idiom as a headline does nothing to enhance the value of the story you’re hoping people will read. It’s the equivalent of a nostalgia-preying listicle, in that its only function is “Hey, remember this thing?”
“Hey, remember this thing?” is among the lowest forms of communication available left to mankind, and people employed at story-telling, and news-sharing outlets should know better. It reminds me of that old Eleanor Roosevelt quote, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” The part she left off at the end was “minuscule minds discuss shared pop culture memories.”
That’s all a pun headline, or one that merely uses the title of a popular song or movie is: two dip shits communicating telepathically without having had to put in any effort. It’s offensive on a harmless entertainment news story, and 100 times more on the story of a rape.