Headlines – the truth, or sucking you in?

Both it seems. I wouldn’t be naturally good at writing a headline. If there was a lot of rain and some flooding I would probably write a truthful but blah headline of “Rain Brings Some Local Flooding”. The Editor then would most likely slash through that and rewrite it as “Residents Devastated By Torrential Rain and Mud”. The first is true; the second sells.

A few days ago I was reminded of this desire for attention by a headline in the Whittier newspaper that read “‘Astronomical’ health costs”.  Below that “City Employees.” What? Who? Health costs for everybody? Insurance costs? Costs going up? A particular company? Which city? Our city of Whittier? What’s going on???? I retired from employment in a city so I’m more sensitive to such items involving city employees. Then I read the article that began “The City of Industry pays more than double the state average for health care benefits for many of its 33 employees. In 2014, the city paid $57,773 — $4,800 a month — for health, vision and dental insurance for a dozen employees each, according to data provided by Transparent California, which compiles information on public employee compensation”.

So that is it. A city with 33 employees but apparently the Cadillac of all Cadillac health insurance plans. There have been a lot of questions locally about the City of Industry and its inner workings yet, I’m sure that residents of Whittier who picked up their morning newspaper and glanced at the headline had a myriad of immediate concerns none of which involved the City of Industry. OK, if you look at the headline you will see the word “Industry” in much smaller print above the headline, yet that word could also be referring to a topical section of the newspaper such as Business, Sports, or Entertainment. It got my attention, as it was meant to do, yet I was annoyed and felt deceived. Before I got to the details my mind had run amok with all the possible scenarios involving health care costs.

The next day there was a headline in an online news story reading “No one wants to go to these colleges any more”, featuring a photo of a stately old stone building. The article then featured photos of 20 colleges and supporting information. To me the headline indicates the story will be about colleges that just cannot get very many students to attend the school and are on their last leg as an institution of higher learning. The actual article gave data showing a decline of around 4-5% at most of the schools in the number of applications. A one-year bit of data. That hardly says that no one wants to go there, especially since included in the schools were the United States Naval Academy and the United States Air Force Academy for which there is strong competition and a congressional appointment.

So, beware of the headline, always read at least part of the article, and remember the technique when you need to get the attention of others.

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