Hi friends,

Before we jump into this week’s headlines and questions, we have some Reframe news. We’re developing a new project called Resound, which will amplify the testimonies of those impacted by media. As the first stage of this work, we’re hosting a shared-learning cohort between six newsrooms covering Indigenous communities this winter and spring. The application to join the group (and gain some funding support, too) is open now and closes November 15. Visit our site to learn more.

That’s all! See you next week.

— Aubrey Nagle, Reframe editor

Headline Check ✅

Here we analyze and reframe a news headline to demonstrate how this important real estate can be optimized for user experience.

Kenosha Trial to Peg Whether Teen is Hero or Reckless Gunman

Above is the initial headline attached to a New York Times story about the homicide trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, who killed two men and wounded another during unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin in August 2020. Rittenhouse’s attorneys are arguing that he acted in self-defense. At no point would a verdict in this case declare Rittenhouse a “hero” and it is appalling for the Times to suggest that, if found not guilty of homicide charges, a person who fatally shot two protesters would be declared a hero by default. This headline, which also made it to print, was quickly changed online to the version below. If the initial headline was attempting to lay out the defense’s position in this trial, the updated version does so more accurately.

Kyle Rittenhouse's Homicide Trial Will be a Debate Over Self-Defense

One Good Tweet 🐥

It’s just what it sounds like: a good Tweet that we think everyone should see!

The only racial dog whistles in American politics are the ones heard by the media, because for the rest of the country it’s explicit. If the only educational concern in the election was the teaching of race and racism, then the issue wasn’t education: it was and is always RACE.

Nikole Hannah-Jones is referring to assigning blame for U.S. Democrats’ losses on election day on the euphemistic “education,” when multiple Republicans ran on fearmongering over “critical race theory” in schools. (More on that below.) There will be plenty of analysis written about this week’s elections, but any reporters on this beat need to ground that work in how race and racism impact all facets of U.S. electoral politics. Be sure to include the context of white grievance in reporting on past and future elections and avoid evasive phrases like “educational freedom” and “parent control of education” in these conversations.

A Link to Make You Think 🤔

Our must-read of the week.

Illustrated silhouette of protesters.

A Better Way to Tell Protest Stories

We’re big fans of the Center for Media Engagement and the research of Danielle K. Brown and Summer Harlow (whose work heavily influenced our study of Philadelphia protest coverage, by the way). So when we saw them all team up, we knew we’d learn a ton from their new research on humanizing and legitimizing protest coverage of underrepresented groups. You will too.

Read the Story

Questions with Answers 📫

Each week we’ll seek to answer a question facing the news industry about language, style, or framing — including answering questions sent to our inbox! Need advice? Send a note to and your question could be featured in a future issue.

Question: When should reporters use the phrase, “critical race theory?”

Answer: As infrequently as possible. “Critical race theory” has become what the field of semiotics calls a “floating signifier.” That means a word or phrase no longer has a broadly agreed upon meaning. For instance, English speakers know “car” refers to a motor vehicle on four wheels. But “critical race theory” now means whatever an interpreter wants it to mean. In its original definition, “critical race theory” is a framework for legal scholarship, not a curriculum actually being taught in U.S. grade schools. But Republican lawmakers and their supporters now use the phrase to refer to essentially any teachings of race or anti-racism in schools. The initial phrase has been co-opted precisely because its original definition is less well-known by the public and it could be transformed into a codeword for talking about race at all.

Thus, right now, that phrase has no real, consistent meaning in public discourse; it is merely a political prop. Reporters should only use it when directly quoting a public figure for reasons of newsworthiness. Using the phrase to describe any trends in education without the context of political movement building on the right is to provide cover for bad faith arguments over public education. Detractors of teaching students about race are not referring to actual critical race theory, so to name them “critics of critical race theory” or the like is inaccurate. If parents and activists are fighting against teaching racism and accurate history in schools, their arguments should be described as such.