Above all, I’m certain that I shared the relief and happy sentiments of all Canadians this morning when I found out that the CPT hostages were now safe-and-sound. I was proud when I found out that they were saved in partnership with Canada’s elite commando unit JTF2.
I flipped around the my cable news channels to see if I could find some more information on this exciting news story and stopped on Newsworld to find the ambiguous headline, “Hostages Freed”.
Of course, in the face of an unambiguous event, why the CBC producers chose to go along with a headline that handicapped the story (and thus the dissemination of the news itself) had me confused.
As I’d find out later on (I didn’t get the news until mid-morning today), the initial news highlighted the American and British (ie. coalition) forces that were involved. As the story developed, CTV Newsnet was the first to break the news that JTF2 was also involved.
Initially, I had understood that American, British and Canadian troops were involved in the daring rescue and therefore I was uncertain as to why Canadian news outlets would be hesitant to underline a great Canadian hero story by describing the story (a daring rescue) for what it was.
When the news broke that Canadians were involved, did the story really change? Were the hostages rescued instead of freed or released? The latter two descriptors are ambiguous and since terrorists were the active possessors of the hostages, the viewer is led to believe that it was the benevolence of the terrorists, or “insurgents” that had freed or released the hostages.
Did a producer in the newsroom of our state-run broadcaster, upon learning of the Canadian commandos involved in the mission contemplate changing the headline to read “Hostages rescued”? I’m not in the news business but I imagine a more exciting (and true) headline would sell more copy (and have the advantage of being descriptive). I imagine that a lot of producers in newsrooms across Canada believe that the coalition forces are in Iraq “illegally” (as the CPT themselves believe). Perhaps then, they will continue to illustrate the story in a way that is joyful of the hostages release yet will ignore attribution to the bravery of the Canadian, British and American forces.
Here is a summary of earlier headlines today by Canada’s MSM:
Hostage’s release the end of a nightmare, says brother (CBC)
This headline is ambiguous. It shows that the release is a happy event yet one may assume that the terrorists released them since they were the active captors of the hostages.
Canadian hostages freed in covert raid in Iraq (G&M)
This implies that the good guys were doing the freeing. This is a good headline.
Canadians freed in Iraq raid (Toronto Star)
Another decent headline. This headline implies that the freeing came as a result of the Iraq raid. In comparison to the G&M headline, the mission isn’t described as ‘secretive’ or ‘stealth’ (covert).
Canadian, British peace hostages freed in Iraq (CTV)
Again, this headline is ambiguous. However, not so much as the CBC headline. The difference is the use of the word “freed” vs. “release”. The hostage takers could have “freed” the hostages, however, it doesn’t seem as intuitive as using the word “release” in this case as the hostage takers were the ones that initially denied the hostages their “freedom”. One could find confusion in this headline as to who freed the hostages, but the CBC headline is much more ambiguous.
Hostages freed (National Post)
This headline has little information and is ambiguous. One would think that learning of the heroism of our elite special forces commando unit, that this would be as much of a headline as the freeing of the hostages.