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?