Saturday, April 09, 2011

A capital paper greets the spring

The curdled milk of human kindness

The April 6 front page of The Sacramento Bee paid tribute to spring with a peculiar headline concerning the capital city's unfortunate homeless population:

Homeless survive winter: Now what?

How do you read that headline? It seems to suggest disappointment. Oh, darn. The cold weather didn't kill them off. Now what do we do? I suspect that wasn't the intent, but it sure can be read that way.

Reporters are seldom responsible for the headlines that run with their articles, so this is presumably a faux pas that can be laid at the doorstep of a momentarily thoughtless editor. Still, it made it into print without anyone noticing and suggesting that it might need revision. (I often have lunch with a group of retired journalists who have Bee experience. They assure me that proofreading is a thing of the past at their old newspaper. Sometimes they suggest that the same thing is true of fact-checking.)

The Columbia Journalism Review may want to take note of this item for its next collection of unfortunate and easily misconstrued headlines. It's not as catchy as “Bishop Defrocks Gay Priest,” but it has a certain piquancy of its own.


Eamon Knight said...

It reads like either an Onion headline, or the deliberately-inflammatory title of what turns out to be a blistering editorial about inhumane social policies. But I don't suppose that's the way it comes out....

Disturbingly Openminded said...

Back in the early days of the Reagan presidency, when I was younger and more naive than now, there was a headline about Ronnie saying something about the "undeserving poor".

And I remember being really surprised that Ronnie was showing empathy toward folks who didn't deserve to be poor.

Boy, did I ever misunderstand that headline.