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missing (indigenous) woman

Posted on 8 September 2016

When you’re writing news, you want to lead with the strongest line possible.

For radio, that means you want the first sentence to grab the ear and make the listener care.

Online, that means you want a headline that will cause people to click and read on.

So here’s a question I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

Does the word “Indigenous” (or “Aboriginal” or “First Nation”) make people care more… or less?

If you hear or read, “a thirty-year-old woman has gone missing” does that jar you more, or less, than hearing, “a thirty-year-old  Indigenous woman has gone missing”?

I honestly have no idea how the average person would respond.

On the one hand, hearing that the woman is Indigenous ties the story into a larger, ongoing narrative about missing and murdered Indigenous women across Canada.

On the other hand, maybe it makes it easier to externalize the story into a part of a problem that is big, but not surprising.

Like yeah, it sucks that there’s people being killed with bullets in the Middle East. But somehow it doesn’t shock us as much as hearing about it happening in Paris.

I suspect there’s a certain portion of the population who hears the word “Indigenous” and, even if they care, tunes out just a little because they are so used to hearing about bad things happening to Indigenous people.

I’d like to imagine that it doesn’t matter. That people would care equally, regardless of identity or race.

But I doubt it.

So how do you lead the story?

Filed under: journalism, media

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