Back in July, Nick Denton announced to great fanfare that Gawker readers would be able to headline stories their way, complete with introductory commentary, thanks to a new platform called Kinja. Turns out the Seattle Times has a similar capability — it’s just not as turnkey.
Overnight, a commenter on a story about the violent crime rate in downtown Seattle changed the headline for everyone. In a follow-on story to the shooting of a Metro bus driver, the Times supported the Downtown Seattle Association’s contention that crime is getting worse, before noting that the data say no, same old, same old. (For a brief moment, The Stranger and Seattle Times agreed.)
Hold up, said Blue N Green:
Headline: “Violent crime is rising”
Article: “But an analysis by The Seattle Times of crime statistics for the downtown area … shows a steady level of violent crime throughout the past five years.”
So is it rising or is it steady? I know the headline is better if it’s rising, but pull it together, editorial.
Fewer than 12 hours later, Seattle Times staff responded: “Thanks, @BlueNGreen, for your comment on our headline. We’ve adjusted it to more accurately reflect the story. We appreciate your note.” New headline? “Violent crime steady downtown for past five years, Times data show.”
Responding to the DSA’s concerns, Mayor McGinn had attempted to argue the stats as well: ““We are at a 30-year crime low and this year is coming in lower than last year.” That’s a losing strategy when you’re talking to people who have been personally affected by violent crime. (Statistics have never cured anyone’s fear of flying.) And using aggregated crime statistics is a way to mask hot spots. Since, he’s retreated to the safer option of throwing more police officers at Seattle’s mean streets.
The past five years have seen any number of plans to improve safety downtown and in Belltown — and to address gang shootings and attacks in south Seattle. With violent crime holding steady, it would appear the current strategy, not just headlines, needs to be rewritten as well.