In my post about the Newsweek cover proclaiming President Obama “the first gay president,” I wrote, “It’s always a good idea to follow links and not take headlines at face value.” I did that because I got so many ruffled-feathery tweets replying to the title as if it meant, “Oh, so now they’re calling our president gay! WTF?” It didn’t mean that at all.
I can’t count the times I’ve posted links to TPC on Twitter and Facebook and gotten responses from readers who only read the headline and then commented on what they assumed the post was about. I then spend time I don’t have explaining, correcting, soothing, or redirecting right back to the post.
Blog titles and headlines are often misleading, sometimes intentionally.
Speaking for myself, when it comes to what goes at the top of a blog post, I’ll occasionally try to be clever, or I’ll put up a significant quote by somebody else, or a simple, straightforward one, or, due to a lack of space, only a partial headline. I mistakenly presume that people will link over to see what we’ve taken the time, effort, and even thought (I know, right?) to write, including further explanation of a premise, pertinent information, commentary, snark, quotes from original articles, visuals, videos, and links to other sites that go into more detail.
Instead, people often base their opinions on one sentence, one that may not even represent what’s in the body of the post. At all. Or maybe a little bit. Or maybe a lot, but there’s still much more information than one measly line will telegraph.
So, to repeat myself, and to state the obvious, it’s always a good idea to follow links and not take headlines at face value.
Please click over and read what we took the time to write first, because it could save you from getting really ticked off, or even celebrating or fuming prematurely. Assumptions can be dangerous things; misplaced blame, fear, anger, elation, offense, disappointment, schadenfreude, triumph, hope– you name it– can be avoided by following a link and fully understanding what you’re responding to before jumping to conclusions.
Thanks for reading this.
Erm, you DID read this, didn’t you?
UPDATE: In no way do we condone intentionally misleading headlines. We try to avoid those, but headlines can be vague or misleading by their very nature. They have to be short, concise, and fit into a given amount of space (especially on Twitter). So while it’s fun to play with words, and it’s not always easy to get a short message out, let’s be clear: We do not try to trick our readers.