This is going to be a really short post because most people don’t read really long ones, and a lot of people don’t read past the headline.
And that’s the point: Now, more than ever, headlines need to be clear.
So let’s look at two headlines, one from WaPo and one from the NYT. Both stories are about the President-elect’s recent Tweet suggesting that intelligence officials postponed a briefing on what he refers to as the so-called Russian hack.
Full disclosure: I visit about 75 news sites a day and write NextDraft, a wildly entertaining look at the day’s most fascinating news. So I am, it’s fair to say, a professional news reader, gatherer, and sharer. But I am guessing, even with your relatively untrained, layperson’s eye, that you can spot the difference between the headlines.
Yes, both stories contain largely the same content if you read them top to bottom. Actually, that’s a guess. I don’t have enough free time to sit around and read two versions of the same story. And neither do you. This the age of distraction when world leaders (OK, one world leader) chime in on everything from world trade to North Korea’s nukes in a hundred forty characters or fewer.
That’s the reality. Headlines matter. Ledes matter. First paragraphs matter. The world is fast. Editors need to slow down and make sure their headlines match their content.