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Response to aquart (Reply #1)

Wed Feb 8, 2012, 11:09 AM

5. Hard to say for sure if the headline is deliberately misleading, or...

...simply the result of sloppy headline-writing. I have to say that I see this kind of sentence structure mistake OFTEN, in headline-writing, and the mistake does not always have a political "coloration." As an innocent mistake, it is the result of headline writers trying to be "pithy," a practice that originated back in the day when hand-set type had to fit given column widths for printed (hardcopy) newspapers and it also had to do with catching peoples' attention, on the street, with short headlines that could be shouted by "newsboys" or that "scream" for attention from newsstands.

Thus you get a headline like this...

"Ex-official's brother concealed union murders"

...that should read like this (if it had been written for accuracy)...

"Ex-official's brother concealed the murder of two union leaders"

...or, better still...

"Ex-official's brother concealed the murder of two union leaders by rightwing paramilitaries"


"Ex-official's brother concealed the murder of two union leaders in labor dispute with Drummond Coal."

The more facts you try to get into a headline, to refine it for accuracy, the longer it gets (usually). However, just a few words could have corrected the impression given by this headline that union members committed the murders. And I HAVE seen this kind of "pithy" inaccuracy deliberately used in a political way, for instance...

"Globalization protests turn violent"
(Truth: police brutally attacked peaceful protestors, a few of whom fought back; the "protests" didn't "turn violent"--the police did!)


"Three U.S. soldiers killed by Iraq insurgents"
(Are these "insurgents" Iraqis? If so, they are not "insurgents," they are citizens of their own country--a country INVADED BY the U.S. military. The headline should read: "Three U.S. soldiers killed by Iraqis opposed to U.S. occupation," or, "Three U.S. soldiers killed by rebellious Iraqis." We often see this issue--who has invaded whom--fuzzied over by terms like these--"insurgents," "terrorists," "guerrilla fighters," "the Taliban," "Al Qaeda," etc.--in very prejudicial ways that exonerate the U.S. war machine. "Pithy" headline writing makes it easy to bias war news in this way.)


I have to admit that the inaccuracy of this headline went right by me, when I first read it. I am grateful to those above who pointed it out. I am well aware of government/corporate/rightwing murders of union leaders in Colombia and so, it did not occur to me that the story could be about union leaders killing anybody. That would be absurd, in the Colombian context. But any reader who doesn't know about the systematic murder of trade unionists in Colombia, by fascist forces allied to the U.S. and its transglobal corporations, might well have read this headline and thought that the labor leaders were the perps.

I did a brief search for info on "Colombia Reports" to try to determine if they are a typical corporate news source, prone to prejudiced headline writing. I couldn't find enough info to make this judgment. But I've seen quite a lot of their news stories posted here at DU, and I would say that they are generally even-handed and objective. My guess: they probably did not deliberately "color" this headline.

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Arrow 6 replies Author Time Post
Judi Lynn Feb 2012 OP
aquart Feb 2012 #1
Scuba Feb 2012 #2
Judi Lynn Feb 2012 #3
LineLineNew Reply Hard to say for sure if the headline is deliberately misleading, or...
Peace Patriot Feb 2012 #5
Judi Lynn Feb 2012 #4
PufPuf23 Feb 2012 #6
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