Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What's In A Headline?

Within South L.A.'s killing zone, a haven from violence is about "a mile-wide area bounded by Hoover Street, Halldale Avenue, 73rd Street and 85th Street in Vermont Knolls [that] has had no homicides in the last three years."

The title of this recent article in the LA Times bothered me. A lot. It perpetuates the idea that South LA is a violent, terrible, scary place-- I'm not saying that the area is actually safe, but using this sort of language to talk about South LA does nothing to help dispel the lore of the neighborhood that made the City change the name from "South Central" to "South" LA.

The article itself delves into the ways that the people of that community have created a neighborhood where sometimes they "fall asleep with the doors unlocked because it's so comfortable" because there, "people keep an eye out." To know that an area like this can exist in South LA is definitely news that should be discussed.

The rest of the article, however, points out how dangerous the surrounding area is. It discusses the troubles that plague South LA: gangs, unemployment, lack of opportunity, violence. Then it ends with a story of a 17-year-old boy who was shot and killed, with the hypothesis that it happened because he refused to join a gang.

I don't deny that the facts are there. I can't take issue with facts. What I can take issue with is the way this article is arranged-- the way that it talks about South LA makes it sound like the "haven" in Vermont Knolls is a fluke, a stroke of good luck more than a result of people putting in time, energy, and effort into building a safer community.

Why did the headline have to say "killing zone"? Why wasn't it something like "South LA residents work together to create a safe zone in a troubled area"? Would something positive simply not garner enough interest in the readership?

Well, it got my attention, so the ploy worked. I'm still not okay with it.

I haven't lived in this supposed "killing zone," but calling it that isn't going to help the community get better. The article could have used Vermont Knolls as an example of possibility and hope for South LA, but it didn't. That's upsetting.

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