A Headline About Media Scholar’s Death That Really Irks Me

Brent Hurd, an American documentary filmmaker and visiting professor at the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, died this past weekend after being hit by a bus while bicycling in Bangalore, India.  I am blogging about this to ensure some small measure of rememberance for a life cut short and also because the headline of The Times of India story reporting on the accident just honestly bothers me.


The story itself is fine- seemingly factual, decent background on short notice, nice job tracking down alternate sources, including Hurd’s Web site.  But the header irks me: “BMTC crushes American professor.”  (BMTC is the well-known acronym in that part of India for the bus company.)


Even in the betwixt topsy-turvydom of our new media age, I do still hold the basic rules of headline writing as sacred.  And this hed at first glance follows many of the traditional tenets.  It’s active and present-tense with an alive-and-kicking verb and a bit of context/teaser without red-alerting into info overload.


But it’s just damn insensitive.   The guy is gone.  The accident is tragic.  Does the use of the word ‘crush’ not just add insult to the beyond-injurious suffering of his loved ones?  And as a student who first saw the story mentioned to me, “It almost sounds like the paper is trying to paint it as a positive,” like a sports header (a recent one, obtained through a quick check of Google News, “Ravens Crush Mistake-Prone Eagles”).


Is it just me?  What do you think?

7 Responses to “A Headline About Media Scholar’s Death That Really Irks Me”
  1. Katie says:

    Agreed. The headline is insensitive. What irks me is that the subject of the sentence is the bus. As if the bus is the important part of the story. Shouldn’t the focus be on the person?

  2. Vikram says:

    Dan, welcome to the ‘free’ English media of the largest ‘democracy’ (mockocracy ?) in the world. Where news channels spend hours and hours debating what movie star wore what while thousands of farmers commit suicide due to debts and droughts.

    In this particular note that the headline emphasized the bus and the American origin of the professor. This is because India’s English language media, now owned by large foreign corporations, actively endorses their neo-liberal economic agenda, shown here by the emphasis of a state-owned entity (the BMTC) as the sole culprit. In addition, this media caters to the English speaking urban elite who are singularly obsessed with America.

    If you are interested, I discussed a paper about the failings of India’s English language media here.

  3. Samira Hasanli says:

    Ooooooooo, I`m very, very sad! I can`t believe to my eyes! My lovely teacher died! He was sooo good person & teacher! I`m one of his students. We work with him with great pleasure. At the last time I speak to him at the beginning of November & he says that he`ll come to Baku at December 12 with a new project! It`s pity:-((((

  4. philramble says:

    TOI has to be amongst the more callous newspapers in circulation in India. Their quality of reporting is abysmal, when compared to established newspapers like The Hindu.

  5. Vibha says:

    I agree the headline is extremely insensitive, with the focus on BMTC and ‘American’, rather than the tragedy and loss it is.

    A friend of Brent

  6. d says:

    Agree with you Dan. Its needlessly insensitive. Could have been worded much better.

    I just happened to read the item on a media blog and was rather shocked . Followed a link there and found your blog. Nice.

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