Fifty years ago yesterday, British soldiers shot 26 unarmed civilians during a protest march in Northern Ireland, killing 14 of them. Six of the dead on Bloody Sunday were minors. The soldiers killed people trying to help the wounded. They beat the survivors.
Here's how the New York Times reported this in 1972:
Here's how the New York Times reports it in 2022:
Implying that the Catholic victims of the massacre were rioters was unfair—the soldiers shot peaceful marchers—but the Times of 1972 was basically forthright and clear about what happened in Derry: British soldiers killed civilians.
The Times' headline of 2022, though, doesn't use the word kill at all, instead referring obliquely to lives taken by gunfire. The retreat into vague language, metaphorical to the point of malaproprism (unfolding gunfire?), is another example of the "exonerative voice" used widely in U.S. media to describe official misconduct without clearly describing who did it. In reference to a 50-year-old street massacre in another country, the borderline gibberish forms out of absurd habit—a habit that shows one stark difference between the reportage of then and now.