Friday, April 17, 2009


I am an editor at a student newspaper, and a few days ago an article came across my desk from a student who was interested in assessing the number of pirate attacks that have recently been garnering media attention.
What disturbed me about the article, which was an opinion piece offering commentary on why the pirates are attacking in the first place, was not the conclusion it came to or statement it made, but rather the diction and terminology used to describe the pirates - diction and terminology that in my opinion was inaccurate and naive.
After mulling it over a little while, I concluded that treatment of pirates as slang-talking, parrot-wearing old-fashioned sailors in a serious news setting is most likely the product of the fantastical image contemporary media has given us growing up.
From Captain Hook to Jack Sparrow, pirates have been represented in a fairy-tale/ adventure story light for years. And now that real-life pirates are showing up in the news we are reaping the benefits of that acculturation.
What is my suggestion in response? There's nothing wrong with a fun pirate movie, but perhaps kids should be given a more accurate and fact-based history lesson along with it, so that when they end up writing a piece of journalism on a case of serious pillaging and fatalities one day they won't be inclined to at any point include an "aarrghh" or "matie" reference.

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