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How Good News Is Bad News

Headlines are important. Many people who do not have the time or interest will read no more of stories than the headline. Far more people read a headline than do the given text. This is why headlines often do not match story content: Because headlines are about message while the story itself is (or should be) about an event or circumstance. This is also one reason editors choose headlines rather than the authoring journalist.

To this end, John Noonan of OPFOR highlights what he calls Agenda Driven Journalism of the Day. Reuters runs a story with the following headline:

U.N. says Iraq deadlier, Italians pull out

For the headline reader, the two naturally seem related. Such as, "al-Qaeda Attacks NYC, Nearly 3,000 Dead." Such styled headlines read as Cause & Effect. And editors know this clearly. Their livelihoods revolve around words and communication.

But Noonan points out rightly that neither of the two issues in the Reuters headline are remotely related.

The Italian mission in southern Iraq has been a real success story, yet the Reuters lead was deliberately calculated make it appear as they are retreating from an unwinnable fight. What the UN says about Iraq is completely irrelevant to the Italian withdrawal, which has been planned for some time now. It has everything to do with the Italians successfully managing the sector, to the point where Iraqi troops can comfortably handle the security load on their own.

To be sure, the ability to read, filter and decipher the various media sources available is a developed skill set akin to learning a second language.