Associated Press Article Makes Unnecessary Association

Take a look at these headlines attached to the following Associated Press article by a Minneapolis StarTribune headlines writer:

“DWI patrol bags 90 drivers during deer-opener weekend”

Based on that headliner, what would you assume?   Perhaps that hunters like to drink?   Perhaps that the deer opening weekend here in Minnesota is a time for gun toting individuals to imbibe in a few after the hunt?   Maybe even during the hunt?   When I first read this headline I was stopped in my tracks thinking that maybe, just maybe law enforcement was cracking down and targeting hunters.

No matter what type of spin you put on it…I truly believe the intent with that headlines is to pollute the public’s perception that deer hunters in Minnesota are a bunch of wild, boozing-it-up sort of nimrods.   Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth for most of us, but to discover this you would have to read on in the article.

“Minnesota law enforcement officers bagged more than 90 drivers for violations including open bottle and underage drinking over the deer opener weekend.

More than a dozen city, county and state law enforcement agencies in Hennepin and Ramsey counties participated in Operation NightCAP, which stands for “nighttime concentrated alcohol patrol.” In all they stopped 250 vehicles and arrested 31 people — 18 for driving while impaired.

State Patrol lieutenant Mark Peterson said every impaired driver they found was arrested and jailed on the spot.”

Hmmm…that was the entire article.   Did you read anything in there that stated the vehicles they pulled over were folks clad in blaze orange, or possibly with deer tied to their autos?   Nope.   They simply made the association that this crackdown occurred on the same weekend as the opener, yet a person would have to read the article to learn there was no newsworthy connection between hunters and drinking.

I guess what bothers me most about this is the power this headline writer has with the paper.   Think about it…how many times do you peruse the headlines of a paper without really reading the content of the article?   You can imagine how many non-hunters read this story and confirmed in their mind how hunters are nothing but a bunch of booze-loving individuals.   It is wrong of the paper to create this false perception.

I take exception to this form of blatant abuse of the media.   I personally believe that the headlines writer made a purposeful connection between the DWI crackdown and the Minnesota Deer Hunting Opener, when the two events apparently were not connected in some meaningful way.

What do you think the likelihood would have been to read headlines such as:  “DWI patrol bags 90 drivers during Mother’s Day weekend” or such as “DWI patrol bags 90 drivers during Independence Day weekend.”   Would motherhood or our patriotism make such a poignant statement as “deer-opener weekend?”   I don’t think so.

I’m not being overly sensitive about such things…I happen to believe the power of the pen can be a mighty sword, especially when it comes to abuse of that power by the media.   As sportsmen, we all need to do our part to uphold a positive public image so that other non-hunters can show us an amount of respect, if only by default.   But when you have subtle attacks such as this one…on the surface it might seem rather innocuous, but the damage it does to reinforce negative stereotypes of law-breaking hunters can be downright cruel and libelous to each of our sporting reputations.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.