Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What's Wrong With This Headline?

Skimming through the news, I came upon a wire story called, "Atheism book found in home linked to fire suspect." The "fire suspect" is suspected of burning down a church. Here's the first line of the story.
Investigators have seized books on demons and atheism as well as rifles and knives from in a home linked to one of the men charged with setting an east Texas church on fire and suspected in a string of similar blazes.
Further along there's some more detail.
Investigators ... discovered paperback books titled "Demon Possession" and "The Atheist's Way,"
So apparently a guy who burned down a church happens to have one book on atheism, and another on demon possession -- two things that don't exactly go together. So what does the AP choose to highlight? Why is the atheist book more significant than the book on demon possession (assuming either has any importance at all)? It's almost as if someone is trying to imply that atheism caused him to burn down a church. Why doesn't the headline read, "books on atheism and demon possession found in fire suspect's home"? Am I reading too much into what may have been just an attempt to put up a shorter headline? Maybe. But I'm not particularly sensitive or easily offended, and I found it annoying. It's pretty likely that some people will read just the headline and jump to the conclusion that an atheist was burning down churches -- as if that's naturally something atheists might be prone to do.

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