Why the Globe and Mail's headline of the murder trial of Tina Fontaine is worse than you think. Why empirical journalism is needed now.

I have talked about the headline here, and the Globe and Mail's excuse here. Tina Fontaine was a kid, and the Globe's wicked headline against her needs revisiting.

As someone who worked as a Language Studies professor, I had to teach grammar, and the sentence’s construction itself indicts the Globe, who is in the business of constructing sentences. The justification that the accused did that to the victim is nowhere implied in the sentence.

In fact, he makes no appearance anywhere in that sentence. Not in the subject, not in the object, and not in the verb. It about the victim from the perspective of the toxicologist. If someone never heard of the case saw the headline, there is no possible way to infer that excuse from the headline. From the headline alone, you wouldn’t even know the article was in reference to a murder trial. That’s quite a feat.

I am certain if a linguist or psychologist ran an experiment and gave one group of subjects the first headline and another group the second, the ones who read the original headline would have a far more negative view of the victim than the latter.

It’s not just the content of the headline that’s loaded: it’s the structure itself, and a headline isn’t just a sentence: it tells you how to interpret the rest of the article. This was a bad article made worse by the public editor.

The fact that we have no experimental journalists conducting empirical studies to prevent this kind of victim-bashing from happening tells you how irresponsible that profession is.

Change is needed now. We have allowed unqualified and untrained individuals destroy a profession, and they are not going to admit the extent of their incompetency, and the damage they have caused over the years. Some actually believe their professional destruction is "proof" of a "golden age" of journalism, even if they haven't actually done anything to warrant that arrogant title.

If any one headline is a wake up call, the Globe's is it.