I have had a problem with headlines in the newspaper for some time now because they are frequently misleading, confusing, and sensational. I understand that headlines are designed to grab the reader’s attention and get them to read the article. It seems to me that over the past ten years or so, headlines often contradict the content of the article.
A headline in the Boston Globe on April 24th caught my attention and bothered me so much that I decided to blog about it. What disturbs me about it is that it deliberately puts a negative spin on something positive.
The subtitle (subline?): One caveat: Don’t try to identify donor.
The reporter was Justin Pope of Associated Press. I’m sure he didn’t write the headline because that’s generally another person’s job at the newspaper. The article describes a “mysterious donor” who is giving away millions of dollars to at least a dozen colleges across the country all of which are headed by women.
He goes on to write that the colleges themselves don’t know who the donor is. The gifts have ranged from $1 million to $10 million so far and all have been given through a third party. “College officials had to promise – in writing, in some cases – not to try to find out the donor’s identity.”
My problem with the headline is this – why are the colleges bewildered? Why couldn’t the headline have read:
College delighted by anonymous major gifts?
Colleges headed by women receiving anonymous major gifts?
Who is the mystery donor giving to colleges headed by women?
(Make up one yourself.)
According to the article, “in most cases, the donor specified that the money be used for financial aid.”
Nothing I read in the article indicates bewilderment. In fact, there are no quotes from any of the colleges that received the money! Of the three people quoted, only one is a woman. There is one comment laced with envy from a male administrator whose college did not receive one of the gifts.
These gifts are a good thing for any # of reasons:
- Times are hard.
- Financial aid is imperiled.
- The gifts were unexpected.
- They fill a need.
- The donor doesn’t want to be identified!
A very good thing, indeed!
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I continue to be bothered and bewildered by headlines.
How ’bout you?