For the Wont of a Word

Today's Washington Post features one of those headlines that make people who want to have an honest debate on illegal immigration shake their heads ruefully.

The headline reads: "Ranch Turned Over to Immigrants"

Would you know, from reading that headline that the immigrants in question were illegal immigrants and they won the ranch in a civil lawsuit?

Neither would I.

Words are important, and for the newspaper to simply identify the lawbreakers as "immigrants" is plainly inaccurate, nor it is honest for the Post to say only that the ranch was "turned over" to them.

The facts of the story are important, I think, to the ongoing national debate about illegal immigration and the headline could have reflected the story far more accurately.. There are those who do not believe that the word "illegal" is in any way essential to the debate, but it's clear that reasonable people on either side of the issue disagree entirely. It's wrong for the Post to inject its own particular bias on the issue into this headline. More importantly, it does a great disservice to people who want to debate the issue honestly and openly, without resorting to distortion.