What’s in a title

Today, the 29th of January 2013, The Independent published a piece of news which title called my attention. It reads “Tandem couple killed in Bristol ‘hit-and-run’ crash ‘were trying for children’”. The article reports the death of a couple in their early thirties who were hit by a car while riding their tandem. This is, no doubt, a sad story for those involved: the deceased, their families, and for the person who –apparently unintentionally– hit them. What called my attention, however, was not that I found the news particularly sad; neither was I moved by morbid fascination, nor appalled by the fact that this was yet another ‘hit-and-run crash’. What I found peculiar was the `were trying for children’ bit of the news’ title. It made me wonder what such information had to do with the accident, or with the liability of the person who provoked it.

The choice might seem banal, but I reckon it isn’t. The reason behind it is that because this couple were young, recently married, and prospective parents, their death is sadder, the crime even more despicable, and the social loss is greater. Such a line of argumentation follows the kind of discourse that has for long permeated media and culture in Britain and everywhere else. This discourse constructs individuals around certain criteria on the basis of which their social worth is measured. Crimes are sadder when victims socially valuable, and social worth seems dependent on beauty, youth, and willingness to become parents. It is a particular way of recentring conservative ideas –such as the nuclear family– that fit very well with Tories’ policies but that look awkward in a newspaper such as The Independent.

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