Friday, March 5, 2010

the latest victims in the drug war...

History and context, it appears, are the latest victims in the drug war. An Associated Press article (link in title of this post) suggests that Red Cross workers are suddenly in the crossfire, and that this is something new. The headline ("Red Cross is Latest Victim in Mexican Drug War") doesn't even cast doubt on the supposed newness of this.

But anyone who's read Time, Reuters, The News, any Mexican paper, Global Post – to name just a few – knows that Red Cross workers in Culiacan and Ciudad Juarez started worrying about their safety two years ago. So what exactly is new about the story?

Instead of a lede that implies this is a new phenomenon, how about one that reads accurately: "After a Red Cross worker was killed in Sinaloa this week, employees are once again fearing for their safety in Mexico's drug war. Although Red Cross workers have protested in the past about the dangers of working in hostile conditions, Maria Genoveva Rogers is believed to be the first Red Cross worker murdered since 2006."

I like the AP, and I particularly like correspondent Mark Stevenson's reporting and writing. But a story and headline like this makes me wonder what the AP is up to. Journalists have a responsibility to have better memories than the general public (or a good database), and therefore be able to put news events into context. Our job, in my opinion, is to examine events with as much detachment as possible, and inform the public soberly with the best of our judgment. Our job isn't to prey on readers' fears, or hype up news events to attract readers or make a story sound sexy – let's leave that to the magazines, books and blogs and Fox News.

I love a bit of jazzed up writing myself at times, but from serious, well-respected journalism outlets like the AP, I look for news I can trust. Please keep it that way folks.

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