The Importance of a Headline

Today's Washington Post features an article about the October employment numbers, which are planted firmly between humdrum and "house afire". The economy seems to have absorbed the hurricanes of the past two months, and high energy prices and posted 56,000 new jobs in October.

The Post, though, seems a bit confused about whether that's good news or bad.

Featured at the top of the page today is the headline "October's Job Growth Stalled". The same article is linked lower on the page, in the business section, with the headline "Payrolls Expand in October".

If you click on the Business section you'll find the same article with the headline, "Payrolls expand in Oct., Jobless Rate Dips".

The article itself carries the headline, "Energy Prices Stalled October's Job Growth".

Which one of these headlines is true? As it happens, it's the one from the business section. Employers did hire more people in October (which isn't a "stall") and the unemployment rate dropped .1 percent. That headline, though, is hidden in the Business section, and in small print on the main page. The big headlines are the gloomer (and not quite true) ones that accompanies the article and gets feature position on the main page.

Headlines are important. They are what draw people to your articles. More than that, though, skimming headlines give people an overview of the kind of news that is out there. The economy right now is very strong, in terms of employment, growth, and wages, yet the American people have little to no confidence in it. Defeatist and misleading headlines like the one the newspaper chose to feature lead to that lack of confidence. 

Economy Washington Post