Motherhood and headlines

This sad, bizarre story was the big news earlier today at The news judgment seems odd enough, but we can attribute that to the nature of the Web.

The truly odd and ill-conceived part of this story, however, is the preoccupation with the woman’s status as a parent. That element of this presentation brings us to some questions:

  • How is it relevant to the story that she was a mother?
  • Is that fact so pertinent that it should be in the headline?
  • In the lead of the story?
  • If the person in the story had been a man, would CNN’s headline be “Dad cuffed, found dead after missing flight”? It seems unlikely.

Too often, we assign parental labels to women in news stories, but not men. In some cases, that fact may shed light on a person, their motivations and their reason for being in the news. But in many situations, whether someone is a parent can be mentioned later in a story — or not at all.



  1. I’m guessing Andy means that on the Web a relatively small story can be the big story of the moment — sometimes how “fresh” a new story will influence its relative importance at a particular time. Just a guess, though. Andy, care to weigh in?

  2. Yes, Geek Girl, that’s what I meant, but I should have made that more clear.

    Immediacy is a more powerful news value for online news than it is for print, and the news of the moment is more important in that medium than the news of the day or week. Stories rise and fall faster online as well.

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