Does the Headline Fit the Story?

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on September 29, 2010

Jump to...

Print

Directions

-Read the excerpt below from the "Best of the Web" post by OpinionJournal.com's editor James Taranto (original post date 9/27/10).
-Read "Types of Media Bias" in the right column. Then answer the questions.

House Judiciary Committee Democrats last week …  invited Stephen Colbert, a comedian who hosts a Comedy Central talk show, to testify at a hearing on immigration. Colbert gave his testimony in character, satirizing a bombastic right-wing TV host.

As the Chicago Tribune reports, many Democrats were embarrassed:

Comedian Stephen Colbert’s satirical testimony before a House subcommittee last week was “an embarrassment” that should not have happened, the second-ranking House Democrat said Sunday.

“I think his testimony was not appropriate,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on ” Fox News Sunday.” “What he had to say was not the way it should have been said.”

Those are the first two of 15 paragraphs in the Tribune story. In paragraphs 3-5, Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she thinks the Colbert stunt was “great.” Paragraphs 6-7 give some background on Colbert and the stunt, which was a brainstorm of Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California. Paragraph 8 quotes Lofgren praising her own idea.

Paragraphs 9-12 describe the stunt. Paragraph 13 reveals that Rep. John Conyers, the Democratic committee chairman, was so mortified that he invited Colbert to leave. Then in paragraph 14 we get the opposition response:

Republicans also were not amused, saying the performance was particularly inappropriate at a time of 10% unemployment and widespread economic pain. Subcommittee member Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R- Utah), called Colbert’s appearance “sad” and “unfortunate.”

The piece closes with another quote from [Democrat] Hoyer.

The headline: “Stephen Colbert’s Congressional Testimony Was Anything but Funny, Republicans Say”–that even though only the [second to last] paragraph was about what Republicans say. We guess the Trib’s editors figure no one much cares anymore what Democrats say.

Read the origianl post at opinionjournal.com. (scroll almost halfway down to “Dems Denounce Own Stunt”)

Questions

1. Why is it important for newspapers to provide accurate headlines for every news article?

2. Why do you think the Chicago Tribune chose the headline that they did?


Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the answers.
























Answer(s)

1. Headlines can greatly influence readers’ opinions about the news. The importance of an accurate headline is that most people don’t read every word of every article; they often just skim the headlines. Therefore, those who read just a headline are not accurately informed when the headline misrepresents the story.

2. Opinion question. Answers vary.