Mar 23, 2007

On the Drudge Report and Misleading Headlines

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From time to time I scan the Drudge Report, especially when I am in a mood for quick headlines. I know that a trip to the world of Matt Drudge means that I need to be skeptical of his tendency to manipulate the news, but my most recent visit was an exercise in journalistic deception that exceeded even the low standards to which Drudge is often mired.

One headline screamed "Justice Breyer Goes 0-3 on NPR News Quiz," implying that a Supreme Court justice displayed evidence that he is out of touch with important information. The real story was that Breyer didn't know that David Bowie "once tried to exorcise Satan from his swimming pool," Iggy Pop "spent a year eating nothing but German sausages," and that Ozzy Osbourne "once asked for directions to the bar immediately after checking in to rehab."

Another headline proclaimed a "Body Found Hanging From Tree in Alabama," perhaps leading a person to think that KKK-style lynching returned to the deep South. Following the link we learn that a white man committed suicide in an Alabama town called Bessemer.

One of the most outrageous headlines read that "New York City environmentalists eliminate toilet paper in effort to save the planet," implying that this was some kind of radical conspiracy to deny New Yorkers the right to wipe. Instead, the link pulls up a story in the Home and Garden section of the New York Times about a couple who are conducting an urban experiment they call "No Impact", in which they eat only organic food grown within a 250-mile radius of Manhattan, minimize consumer shopping, produce no trash (excepting compost), use no paper, and use no carbon-fueled transportation.

Another provocative headline declared "Women covered up skimpy clothes at Bill Clinton fundraiser," leading the casual observer to conclude that this was somehow related to Clinton's sexual misbehavior. A closer inspection of the article, though, turns up the fact that the Clinton fundraiser was held in a fitness center, and that those who "covered up" did so with special T-shirts emblazoned with "Exercise Your Vote."

Admittedly, Drudge is far from the only media outlet that manipulates the news through misleading headlines, but he seems to have elevated the practice to an art form. One wonders, though, how many people draw erroneous conclusions from this deceptive practice.

Caveat lector!

4 comments:

www.enterjakarta.com said...

It's about time the left got a taste of their own medicine.
It's amazing you don't notice it until you don't agree with the viewpoint.
On the right we are so sick of it, we expect the headline to mislead.
The liberal media has run amock on this for years. They're goal is to mislead and misinform anyone who doesn't take the time to read the whole story.
Read any newspaper article and you won't find the truth until the last few lines.

historymike said...

Hmmm...

So deception is OK so long as "our side" does it?

Sorry - I call bullshit when I see it, right or left. Drduge just happens to be in my radar sight at the moment.

And, believe it or not, most people don't fall into neat right-left categories as you imply. Only partisan hacks and doctrinaire zombies blindly march in lock-step.

microdot said...

Liberal media, hah!

When ever I see some one raving about liberal media I get the impression that the term defines anything that isn't seen through Bill O'Reilly or Russ Limbaughs' Beer goggles.

Of course, who am I to speak? I find the New York Times to have real reality problem and Administration bias! Far too Conservative for me!

Hooda Thunkit said...

Long ago I learned to distrust all headlines, print or otherwise.

The story rarely has anything even remotely resembling the headline's promises...