Compare the pair

Wikimedia image of female police offers in uniform in Mexico CityGuardian headline: “Student becomes new police chief in Mexican town”

SMH headline: “Just 20, young mother becomes Mexican top cop”

The articles themselves are fairly comparable. The Guardian article leads with “She is a petite 20-year-old college student who paints her nails pink, has an infant son and believes in non-violence” – as if those are what matters to the appointment! It then mentions (in the third para) that she is a criminology student (ie something that suggests some relevant qualification), and the fifth para is this:

The town’s mayor, Jose Luis Guerrero, said she was the most qualified of a handful of applicants for a job, which in many parts of Mexico is considered tantamount to a death sentence.
[my emphasis]

I’m not terribly happy about the article’s treatment of this issue:

The appointment has upset some traditionalists – bloggers have asked if there are no men in the state of Chihuahua

I would have been happier had they made it clear that traditionalist clearly equals misogynist, since the suggestion seems to be that any man could do a better job than this specific woman. But look, I agree that appointing a 20 year old student (even if she is a criminology student) does raise some questions, and overall, the Guardian article appears to be a fairly objective treatment of the story.

The SMH article leads with this:

Marisol Valles is just 20 years old, mother of a baby son and still a student, but she is also the newest chief of police in a drug-plagued region of northern Mexico.

“She was the only person to accept the position,” said the mayor’s office in Praxedis Guadalupe Guerrero, amid the daily threat of violence here which has claimed the lives of police officers and a former mayor.

Hmm, that’s not exactly what the Guardian reported. But “accept” is different from “apply for”, so they could both be right.

The article then mentions Valles’ criminology studies in the third para (like the Guardian), and goes on to give a fairly detailed and apparently objective account of her in her new position. So generally, again, the article seems to be ok.

So the articles are comparable. But the headlines? SMH, the “20 year old” bit is relevant, but the fact she’s a mother, let alone a young mother – not so much. I doubt that it would have been reported that way had the new police chief been a father or a young father. I think we would simply have heard no mention of the kids.

This is not to say family is not important. Valles herself says (in the SMH article) that she discussed the appointment with her family. However, her family is not relevant to her qualifications for the job.


* Thumbnail image is used under a GNU Free Documentation License. Original image by Thelmadatter.

Categories: media

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1 reply

  1. I think it’s possible, given the police chiefs are being killed background, that a young male student who took on the job who was also a father would have it mentioned in the story, because newspapers love a tragic orphan tale, even if it hasn’t happened yet.
    I don’t think his parental status would make it to the headline though.

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