Sensational language dehumanizes murder victim
I received an interesting and insightful letter today from Peter Walsh, a reporter with The Telegram. Peter has grown weary of the sensational terminology that has developed around the murder of Amanda Power; in particular the term "suitcase killer". He fears that some media are leaning towards a "tabloid and crass" style of journalism, and suggests that some sensitivity be brought to bear.
While I agree with Peter Walsh on this, I likely wouldn't have considered this point without his prompt. So without further ado, I hand the podium over to him. Here is the full text of Walsh's letter:
It's not often I have emotional reactions to stories I cover anymore, but Amanda Power's murder is different. It's just a horrible story. One of the worst in my memory for Newfoundland.
I'm writing you because I've noticed a media trend which I think is only making matters worse. A blog and possible following discussion by you perhaps could nip it in the bud, I hope.
A lot of headlines, scripts and leads continue to play up the gory aspects of Power's death. References to her dismemberment and encasement in a suitcase continue to run very high, almost two weeks after the shocking news. I've even heard the accused in the murder referred to as "the suitcase killer."
Beyond the lesser point that "suitcase killer" is not an accurate statement (the person killed Amanda Power, not a suitcase), it is tabloid and crass. It dehumanizes Power and makes White more notorious, something many psychopaths, serial killers and murderers actually enjoy.
Giving stories titles, not unlike a Hollywood movie, strikes me as very American in style and not in tune with the community values of Newfoundland, which has one of the lowest crime rates in the Western world. Our shock and genuine revulsion at crimes likes this is one of the reasons people want to live here. We have not become desensitized to violence. We should be wary not to sensationalize this story, therefore the focus should be on the murder and the senseless loss of life, not constantly playing up the gory bits about the suitcase.
The horrible nature of the crime is obviously part of the story. I'm not advocating censorship, just sensitivity.