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Hed: (n) Newsroom Jargon for Headlines

Headlines are tricky. They have to grab flighty readers’ attention, tell a story, and hopefully even squeeze in a witticism. The smallest choices affect readers’ first impressions and, sometimes, their only take on the story. Once a week, we analyze the different ways news outlets present the same story.

The Tale:

On Saturday, December 10, Teen Vogue’s Lauren Duca wrote an op-ed accusing U.S. President-elect Donald Trump of gaslighting American citizens.

The Heds:

Teen Vogue Accuses Donald Trump of Gaslighting America (ATTN)

In ‘scorched-earth’ op-ed, a Teen Vogue writer says Trump is ‘gaslighting America’ (The Washington Post)

Who will take on Donald Trump? Teen Vogue (The Guardian)

The Take:

For those unfamiliar with the term, gaslighting is an abuse tactic where the abuser causes the victim to question what is real and what is not. It puts the abuser in control by overwriting their victim’s reality. It’s put Trump where he is because he has normalized deception: he lies constantly, but makes his lies seem truthful, even when proven otherwise by reputable sources. The public also expects his lies, so some may ignore the facts, because who has time to constantly fact-check? And for those who don’t see the truth or don’t want to believe it, these lies become reality. Teen Vogue, of all publications, has finally pointed out this cruel tactic, used by the untrustworthy President-elect.

Perhaps ATTN uses the word “accuses” in its hed to put some distance between its piece and the strongly-worded (and well-researched) Teen Vogue piece, sticking with the “innocent until proven guilty” route. Meanwhile, the Washington Post’s use of “says” can be read as either pointing a finger or stating a fact. As for pulling the phrase “scorched-earth,” which Teen Vogue included in Duca’s dek, it clarifies just what kind of op-ed the piece is. This isn’t just Teen Vogue calling Trump out—the magazine is going for the President-elect, no-holds-barred. It’s carpet bombing his facade of being a man of the people. It’s burning his foundation to the ground and showing that he is nothing but lies. Or, the Washington Post could be mocking the description of the op-ed, pointing it out to showcase what the writer may believe is an exaggeration.

And then there’s the Guardian’s take on the op-ed: it poses a challenge that Teen Vogue has definitely taken up. The newspaper is clear about who is willing to stand up to Trump while he calls political media “dishonest” and “scum,” says the Washington Post is “phony,” and calls the New York Times “absolutely a disaster.” This teen magazine, which is not known for its politics, is getting its hands dirty in the name of telling its readers not to be victims anymore.

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