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A Misleading Headline Misleads Your Audience

Another dreary, rainy day in Burien.  Though I'm dead tired and groggy from my Nyquil-induced sleep(wasn't feeling well), I am at the office to do my Saturday morning floor shift. 

Since I'm still not awake enough to do anything that requires too much thought, I start reading the headlines.  One in particular grabs my attention:

"Tent City In Suburbs Is Cost Of Home Crisis"

Oh, my.  This would certainly be news to me.  I mean, I know that in many parts of the country the situation with short sales and foreclosures is getting desperate.  But how sad it would be if thousands of families were to end up in a situation where they had no alternative but to live in tent cities.

So I click on the link to the article and start reading.  The first 3 paragraphs give a brief overview of a particular tent city in Ontario, a city located on the 10 about an hour or so south of L.A. 

Quoting the 4th paragraph:

 "As more families throw in the towel and head to foreclosure here and across the nation, the social costs of collapse are adding up in the form of higher rates of homelessness, crime and even disease."

So, in my mind anyway, the story is building me up for an in-depth look at foreclosed-upon families living in tent cities.  But here's the next paragraph:

"While no current residents claim to be victims of foreclosure, all agree that tent city is a symptom of the wider economic downturn. And it's just a matter of time before foreclosed families end up at tent city when they really bottom out. "

This just about made me jump out of my chair.  Please don't get me wrong; I feel that the current foreclosure situation is a tragedy that did not need to happen for many people.  But the rest of the story's focus is on the nuisance that high rates of foreclosures brings to communities.  It does not refer back to the headline at all.

Yes, this is a very serious concern, and it's great that we are talking about the possible, unfortunate consequences of foreclosure now and not after the fact so that we can take action, instead of being able to do nothing but reflect on it(kind of like the mortgage crisis).

But I have to take issue with journalists and media outlets that write headlines such as this one, that correlates foreclosures with tent cities, when the content of the article has nothing to do with the headline. 

On the contrary, it has everything to do with fueling fear and misinformation amongst the general public, who may not even click on the article to read the true story.  Or, in this age of fast information, instant gratification and minimal attention span, they may not get down as far as the fifth paragraph.

But it's the headline that sparks conversation, spreads rumors and boosts readership. 

 



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Comment balloon 5 commentsLisa Bosques • December 22 2007 01:25PM
A Misleading Headline Misleads Your Audience
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