dean-150Dean Wright is Global Editor, Ethics, Innovation and News Standards. Any opinions are his own.

Kidnapping isn't funny.

Neither are extortion, hijacking or murder threats.

So why have some in the media been laughing—or at least winking—at people who have been doing precisely that—the criminals who have been hijacking ships and crews off the Horn of Africa and holding them for ransom?

I think it has something to do with what we've chosen to call them: pirates.

Perhaps we in the media have all seen too many cartoonish films with Johnny Depp portraying the charming and engaging Jack Sparrow. Or maybe we remember an earlier era when Errol Flynn played a charming and engaging Geoffrey Thorpe who fights for commerce and his country (England) and the affections of a Spanish princess.

Maybe we need a break from the mostly grim coverage of the financial crisis and evaporating savings, continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a tide of gun violence and unrest around the world.

The day after the crew of the Maersk Alabama kept control of their ship after the attack by pirates who later held Capt. Richard Phillips, the front-page headline in the New York Post was: “Yo, Ho, D’oh.”