Unborn fetus: person or not?

4 Apr

The story about a grandfather involved in arson that killed his pregnant daughter, son-in-law and grandson is a difficult case. Whenever a controversial issue is involved in a story, nobody ends up agreeing with each other on how it should be reported.

I think that, no matter how reporters Smith and Shah handled this story, it would invoke some sort of complaint with how the “three vs. four killed” situation was handled. I would say, though, in this case, to follow the Tribune’s stylebook. At least by doing this, you let the public (and the editor) know that you were strictly following the stylebook’s rules, which do not consider an unborn child or fetus to be a person. This is probably the only way for this story to remain semi-free of bias. Newspapers have stylebooks exactly for difficult situations like these, especially involving morality and the public interest.

However, the headline and the text clash with each if these rules are followed. Changing the headline to something like “Grandfather charged in blazed that killed relatives” makes the headline a little more general and not as specific, although this may not be as SEO-friendly as the original.

What confuses me, though, is how editor Timothy McNulty reacted. Although I agree with him when he says that journalists “should recognize their weak spots and moments of unintentional bias when dealing with religion and morality,” he then almost counteracts that by saying the headline doesn’t agree with the story. He should probably have used more care in this matter before sending it out to print.

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