07 May 2008

Journalism Requiem: Headlines

(Found this here)

Copy editors love to say that more headlines get read on a daily basis that stories. And that's true. People flick through the paper and scan almost every headline but read far fewer stories. The same is true online.

Readers might think they are walking away with the essence of the story if they only read the headline and perhaps the lead paragraph. At least that should be the case.

But take this headline: Too Much, Too Little Sleep Leads to Big Belly

This would be fine, except that it's not true. Poor sleep is "linked" to being obese. It's not a causal relationship and the story even says as much. This type of mistake is common. And much worse mistakes are made all the time.

As news sources, especially newspapers, slash staffs and move away from copy editing, as if it's a luxury rather than a necessity to protect credibility -- which is the very the lifeblood of news -- more mistakes will be made, and they'll be made on much more important stories.

1 comment:

Matt J. Duffy said...

Great point.

I like to stress your point with the Latin phrase: "Post hoc, ergo propter hoc." After the fact, therefore because of the fact. Makes you sound smart when you throw around Latin phrases.