Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Logic Doesn't Sell Newspapers

The good folks at Bike Hugger pointed me to this wonderful example of nonsense in the field of headline writing by Tweeting:

Suspect headline of the day: Children prefer homework to bikes wazzat? http://bit.ly/lxQQ7

Following the link leads to this story in The Daily Telegraph headlined

Children prefer homework to bikes, new statistics show

Kinda makes you want to read the article, eh? And I'm pretty sure that's the point. Because neither the article itself, nor the study it cites, show anything that backs up the claim in the headline. The article does state that cycling was the only activity to become less popular in a survey of child activities but that it is more popular than riding a skateboarding, rollerblading, riding a scooter, or doing a craft or art activity. And kids spend more time doing homework, reading and surfing the internet than they do riding bikes.

Now problem is the use of the word "prefer" in the headline. I think I spend more time changing the litter in my cat's litter box than I do eating dark chocolate. Do I prefer scooping crap to eating dark chocolate? No, I do not. I spend more time on the cat litter project because it's something than needs to be done. Like homework. 

Headlines sell newspapers. I'm sure the writer of the headline knows the meaning of the word "prefer" and prefers to get more readers with a snappy headline instead of a truthful one. Heck, it worked on Bike Hugger and me. I probably would've glossed over the article if it had a mundane title.


justridingalong said...

Bicycling in Australia has declined in recent years for all age groups. The attitude has been moving towards seeing bicycling as a dangerous sport rather than just a way to get around--kind of like here in the US. The nationwide helmet law in Australia seems to be a reflection of this attitude. Still, your point about the paper manufacturing a "man bites dog" headline is a good one.

Bob said...

I must REALLY like going to work every day.

Anonymous said...

Lies, damned lies, and statistics...

Ainsley Wiles said...

Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story....saw an example on the news last night

Anonymous said...

I prefer sleeping to riding...pfff