A few weeks ago in this space, we considered whether focusing on beheadings serves the purpose of those doing the executions.
NPR has apparently been getting a lot of pushback on the subject with each subsequent execution — beheading, if you will.
In his column today, NPR’s ombudsman, Edward Schumacher-Matos, answers listeners who’ve objected to the focus on the manner of killing hostages, citing a policy from the network’s standards boss, Mark Memmott.
“I think we need to use words that accurately describe what was done. In this case, the videos appear to show the men being beheaded. The word applies. I don’t think a warning before saying the word is practical.
In longer reports, we effectively do give listeners a warning by first introducing the topic of ISIS and the killings before use of the word. But I think to require some sort of advisory before beginning each report is unnecessary. For one thing, there are few if any listeners who don’t already know about the killings and how they were carried out.”
“Saying Foley was executed would imply that the Islamic State (or ISIS) is an entity that can legally carry out such sentences. It’s better to say Foley was ‘killed’ or ‘beheaded’ or ‘murdered,'” Memmott contends.
“This is not to defend the repulsive practice,” NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos writes, “but it is to say that we cannot pretend that it does not exist—or that our refusing to use the word will somehow make the practice go away.”