End of the World Coming on Wednesday

I’ve never actually met a "headline writer". I’ve met a professional obituary writer. But never a headline writer. It strikes me, however, that the headline writer might be the most important person in the media when it comes to establishing the conventional wisdom.

Example 1: "Australians Lose Taste For Wine"

Example 2: "Wine Sales Slip over Past Year"

Same story, same media outlet. One true, one so completely off the target as to defy imagination.

If you are browsing headlines, as many do, and come across first headline you might think that Australians are simply not drinking wine anymore; that some odd infection has overcome the people of Australia that prevents them from getting near fermented grape juice. If you come across the second headline you realize that sales are slightly down year over year. Big difference. How does this happen?

3 Responses

  1. Rick - March 6, 2006

    I think if the industry as a whole lost almost 10% with some wineries losing as much as 42% in California, the headlines would be fairly doom and gloom here too. Brandy down 44.7 per cent? There has to be something more to it than them just not buying wine anymore though…

  2. Steve-o - March 6, 2006

    If that headline confounds you, Tom, I suggest you never pick up a copy of the New York Post! A for-profit news outlet’s gotta get hits – and a snappy doomsday headline will do it every time (face it, would the average people even click the link to read the story based on the headline “Wine Sales Slip over Past Year”? On the other hand, the other subject line draws some interest…)
    Headline writing is advertising as much as it is a ‘snappy summary’ of the story. How much puffery gets involved in that obviously depends on the editorial policy (see, e.g. the NYTimes vs. the aforementioned NYPost). But all that is obvious…
    At any rate, Rick makes a decent point – it’s not just a ‘blip’ on the radar… a 10% decline is substantial, particularly when Australia’s sitting on a bit of a glut of wine these days.

  3. Steve-o - March 6, 2006

    (the 10% is in reference to rose; in the interest of clarity and disclosure I thought I should mention that)

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