Servants of the Paraclete

Complicated cold case: Was beauty queen raped, killed by her priest (now an ex-priest)?

Complicated cold case: Was beauty queen raped, killed by her priest (now an ex-priest)?

I have been thinking about the rather picky journalism issues raised in this post for quite some time now, so consider this a trip into my GetReligion "file of guilt."

What we have here is another argument about headlines. I find fights over headlines quite compelling, in part because (a) I spent several years on a copy desk writing headlines and (b) I know (the research has been around for decades) how many readers merely scan headlines and, at most, the top paragraph or two of most stories. Many readers see a headline and then react. That's the sad truth.

So what about that long, very detailed Washington Post headline the other day that proclaimed, "Break in ‘unholy’ cold case: Police arrest former beauty queen’s priest in her 1960 killing." And here is the top of the story:

Fifty-six years ago, a young schoolteacher went to church during Holy Week and never came home.
The next day, a few of her possessions were found scattered along the road outside the local Sacred Heart Church, as Texas Monthly recounted. One high-heeled shoe, a patent-leather handbag, a piece of crumpled white lace.
The following week, her body was found, fully dressed and badly bruised, retrieved from a canal in which someone had left her to decompose, her corpse washed clean of evidence. An autopsy found that she had been raped while comatose.
This was Irene Garza, a 25-year-old, dark-haired belle of McAllen, Tex., who was once named Miss All South Texas Sweetheart. She was her high school’s homecoming queen, the first person in her family to graduate from college and a teacher for disadvantaged children.
Above all, Garza was a devout Catholic. The last place she was seen was at Confession.

The priest hearing confessions that night long ago was the Rev. John Feit, who was 27 at the time.

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