Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Misleading Headlines

Even though many of us are on spring break, I am sure we have heard about the latest The New York Times story. We have moved on from John McCain to a new politician- Eliot Spitzer. Spitzer, who is currently serving as governor of New York, has been accused of being involved in a prostitution ring. Kelly McBride, Ethics Group Leader of Poynter.org, looks at this story in a different angle than most. Instead of trying to find the best source or digging up more details, McBride focuses on the headline. "The "prostitution ring" headline is misleading. The reporting so far suggests that Spitzer hired a prostitute who worked for an organized ring. No one is suggesting that Spitzer is somehow involved in running the ring or protecting it. A more precise headline would be more accurate," stated McBride. She worries that people will not look beyond the headline and therefore not understand what is actually occurring.

I agree with McBride. Journalists need to make sure what they are writing is not misleading. I understand that headlines can really grab a person's attention, but I think that is the main reason why journalists need to be so careful of what their headlines state. A very recent example of this is the John McCain story, also done by The New York Times. A misleading headline and poorly edited story lead to much confusion over what has happened. McBride also states the need for sources. Many of the reports had statements from 'anonymous sources.' When I see this I tend to question who this person really is, or if they even exist. After seeing so many journalists, writers, reporters, etc. getting caught up in plagiarising, it is hard to instantly believe a story that does not have actual named sources.

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