“Violence towards cops skyrocketed in 2016”? Or How to create an inflammatory headline?

“Violence towards cops skyrocketed in 2016”? Or How to create an inflammatory headline?

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Newsweek “Violence towards cops skyrocketed in 2016 and whites are mostly responsible

“More cops were killed in the line of duty last year than in any year since 2011, leading many, including some in the FBI, to falsely connect the increase in violence with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. “

Chart of officer deaths from 2017 to 2016:

Data in the chart is from the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund

The Newsweek report correctly cites the “felonious assault” number, which is separate from “accidental deaths”. For 2016, the combined total is 118.

The NLEMF numbers refer to total deaths and their count of total deaths is different than the FBI numbers (FBI data is from here). This may be, in part, due to the NLEMF including officers who died from having a heart attack while on duty, as well as some additional categories of deaths that are different than what the FBI counts as an officer death.

Seeing the overall context during the past 100 years, did violence against cops “skyrocket in 2016”?

The trend has been remarkably downwards since 1971, in spite of the U.S. population increasing by about 1% per year and the number of police officers in the U.S. increasing per year. What we saw in 2016 is a large percentile increase in a relatively small number (66). During the previous 10 years, the number of officers killed in felonious assaults, per the FBI, varied from a low of 27 in 2013 to a high of 72 in 2011.

The annual year-to-year variation is large and while the “61%” year over year hike sounds like a lot, it is within the normal annual variation in this number.

But the news coverage lacks context so that readers or viewers are not informed – they are being told what to think.

How others headlined this story:

  • FBI report accounts for 118 police officers who died on duty in 2016
  • FBI says US police deaths spiked 61% in 2016
  • FBI: Over 57000 Police Officers Assaulted in 2016
  • Jeff Sessions Calls 61% Spike in Law Enforcement Officer Murders ‘Shocking’ and ‘Unacceptable
  • Number of cops killed in the line of duty rose in 2016
  • FBI: 118 police officers killed on the job in 2016
  • 2016 was a deadly year for law enforcement

News services that have a track record of “hyping” stories (both on the left and right) used provocative headlines while those that report more like traditional, objective news services use the milder, non pejorative headlines.

And then there is Newsweek:  “Violence towards cops skyrocketed in 2016 and whites are mostly responsible

Which publication headlines from the above are using online, for profit, fake news publishing techniques and which are not?

Note – all officer deaths are sad. This post is not about that, however. This post is an illustration of fake news techniques employed by a conventional news publisher to enhance the emotional response of the targeted reader. Newsweek is intentionally manipulating your emotional response in the style of yellow journalism (emphasizing “sensationalism over facts”).

Unfortunately, a large segment of the U.S. media has reverted to the techniques of yellow journalism.

Learn to recognize this style of news – and avoid such publishers – learn to think for yourself.

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