Fuzzy headlines


I think most of us would agree with Merriam—Webster' definition of headline; a head of a newspaper story or article usually printed in large type and giving the gist of the story or article that follows. The thing that gets reporters and consequently their readers in trouble is the assumed literary license afforded to that little word...gist.
If you're in a hurry, and who isn't these days, and you just read "Report Finds No Evidence Syria Hid Iraqi Arms" you're either gonna be relieved or curious. The  relieved readers will say "I knew that" and skip ahead to the next headline that adds to that warm fuzzy feeling they just experienced. Unfortunately those are the very people who should take the time to at least read as far as the second paragraph; Although Syria helped Iraq evade U.N.—imposed sanctions by shipping military and other products across its borders, the investigators "found no senior policy, program, or intelligence officials who admitted any direct knowledge of such movement of WMD."

Because of the insular nature of Saddam Hussein's government, however, the investigators were "unable to rule out unofficial movement of limited WMD—related materials." (Talk about ambiguous, that should make even the least curious among us wanna keep readin'.)
I could cut—n—paste several more examples to show how the headline isn't truly representative of the article but you get the gist of what I'm sayin'. I don't have a fancy journalism degree (as if I had to tell you that) but if I was the editor with the last word I'd simply tell the author "Great work, just add But...! to the end of the headline and even Kennedy and Boxer will wanna read it"

Joseph Crowley   4 26 05