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The NY Post’s Headlines Suck, Actually

Headlines are easy when all you have to do is please your evil boss.

A middle finger over an offensive NY Post cover.

(Hell Gate)

You can't read the news on social media without getting some version of Oh wow the New York Post writes the best headlines! Keep scrolling and someone will inevitably have dug up "Headless Body in Topless Bar" and before you know it, you're remembering some recent favorites (Trump as "Florida man"? Ha. Got him!) 

But Tuesday's front page (or "wood," the parlance of tabloid journalists who are dying to sound cool) should disabuse you of the Post's headline skills. In fact, today's front page of the Post proves that just about any lazy hack who's willing to sell their soul for a nonagenarian billionaire can crank these turds out.

Yes, this is how the Post chose to cover a mass school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, in which six people—three nine-year-old children, and three adults—were gunned down by someone who was able to easily and legally purchase several automatic weapons.

Law enforcement identified that person as 28-year-old Audrey Elizabeth Hale, who, according to a Metropolitan Nashville Police Department spokesperson, "on a social media profile, used male pronouns." Reporters asked the police chief in Nashville if Hale's gender identity had anything to do with the shooting, and the chief responded, "There is some theory to that. We’re investigating all the leads, and once we know exactly, we will let you know." Left unanswered: Is there actually a theory to that?

"Police reports, public documents, or statements from family members can likewise incorrectly identify a person's gender," the Trans Journalist Association wrote in a statement following the mass shooting. "It is additionally important to keep in mind that sharing partial, un-fact-checked, or contextless information and public records during breaking news events can have outsized consequences for members of marginalized communities."

All this very tenuous and preliminary information—coupled with the fact that the relatively few Americans who identify as transgender are far more likely to be victims of violent crime and the targets of hundreds of pieces legislation designed to dehumanize them (most recently in Tennessee, the state where this shooting happened)—might lead a newspaper editor to err on the side of caution. "Male cisgender killer" is something that could run in front of the vast majority of school shooting headlines, but doesn't. The first three words of the first sentence of the Post's print edition story by Ronny Reyes and Selim Algar, which parrot the headline, also shove caution aside in favor of pushing brainless mass hysteria. (We've reached out to the Post, but they haven't responded yet.)

Look at how Nashville's own newspaper, the Tennessean, chose to cover it.

Huh. Where's the barely concealed, reactionary insinuation that we all know, deep down, why this shooting actually happened? Who's REALLY to blame here—and don't say "assault weapons" or "the literal rivers of unregulated firearms streaming out of the country's orifices," because that's too easy.

Generally speaking, newspaper headlines are at their best when they disrobe powerful players with maximum efficiency, or amplify the voices of those who cannot speak. Bad headlines cheaply exploit the most vulnerable among us while advancing a disgusting and very real political strategy designed to legislate them out of public life. The New York Post knows the difference, and they wrote it anyway.

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