That little thing called “headline”

I shall scrupulously report and interpret the news, taking care not to suppress essential facts or to distort the truth by omission or improper emphasis.

Journalist’s Code of Ethics, No. 1

HEADLINES are supposed to give you a sweeping glimpse of the story they represent.

Well, not many headlines. One such misleading line appeared deep in the Inquirer‘s October 19, 2010 issue. The article “6 men in rape of nurse mull filing illegal arrest raps” (p. A16) invites the reader to go over the line again. So this men were really found guilty, eh? — “6 men in rape of nurse”! And now they are thinking of suing their accusers even if they, the criminals, were already convicted.

When one reads the article, however, that story is immediately destroyed. Actually the six men mentioned were merely suspects and were later released for lack of incriminating evidence. (You can read the rest of the story here.)

Call me pedantic, but I do find something unjust if a person without much time would skim through a newspaper or an RSS feed only to get inaccurate information. Imagine the disappointment such a reader would later get if he discussed the story with his friends and find out that he got one essential fact wrong.

Besides, that headline is unfair to the suspects. “Acquitted rape suspects mull filing illegal arrest raps” could have been nearer the truth.

Sometimes we forget how much little things are actually worth.

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