Yesterday a tweet from a local newspaper article described a traffic fatality saying “a man was killed when struck by a truck.” The victim was named, with lots of background information, but nothing about the driver of the truck. There is a distinct presumption of innocence. This is typical reporting of most traffic incidents. The victim may also be described as not wearing reflective clothing, not wearing a helmet, walking outside a crosswalk, “jaywalking” (Jaywalking was invented to make way for cars), not paying attention, or the worst excuses: “she came or of nowhere”, or “I didn’t see him”.
How Coverage of Pedestrian Fatalities Dehumanizes Victims and Absolves Drivers
A pedestrian rule breaker crossing outside of an intersection.
Use of passive voice
Press accounts tend to use the passive voice when describing traffic fatalities. As in, “A pedestrian was hit by a car.” Only three out of 71 articles used the active voice. How Coverage of Pedestrian Fatalities Dehumanizes Victims and Absolves Drivers
The passive voice “conveys subtle messages about blame and responsibility,” writes Magusin, “distancing the driver from the act.” And that affects the way people perceive events and assign culpability.