Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Don't Read Headlines

Some readers might have deduced that I spend a fair amount of time reading headlines.  Why, then, would I entitle this post "Don't Read Headlines"?  The reason is that the headline often is the most slanted, manipulative part of the article.

For example, look at the follwoing three headlines, from three articles about the same subject:

Never mind what the articles say.  The headline is what you are going to remember -- along with the emotional response that the headline engendered.  The first in the list portrays "Alito" as a man on the defensive, which is a position of weakness.  The second presents "Judge Alito" as "a powerful match," obviously, a position of power.  The third is less biased, but the subtext implies that he is obstinate and unforthcoming, and more subtly portrays him as being on the defensive.  

Personally, I think Alito should be on the defensive, and I suspect that he is obstinate and unforthcoming.  I think a lot more than that, too, but that is not my point today.  Even though I agree with the bias shown in two of the three headlines, it bothers me that respectable newspapers would do that.  Biased headlines should be the prerogative of bloggers, not journalists.