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Another newspaper, another misleading Asante Samuel headline

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Apparently, it's becoming a thing here in town to run somewhat misleading headlines about Asante Samuel. I was browsing some of the local Eagles coverage today and came upon this story by Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The article was titled...

Samuel: Tackles? I do picks.

First, I don't know who wrote the headline... so I can't blame McLane since it almost assuredly wasn't him. Regardless, whoever did it seemed to me as though they were being intentionally misleading. The headline makes it appear as if Samuel said the phrase "Tackles? I do picks" or at least some version of that. He didn't. They didn't put quotes around the phrase, but putting it after his name and a colon implies that he said "Tackles? I do picks." Go read the article, tell me if you find anything close to that.

What makes this really weird is that the News Journal did almost the exact same thing in October of last year. Write a provocative headline that appeared like a quote, but wasn't. In that case, the headline appeared to have Samuel saying "I'm not paid to tackle" when he in fact did not say that. I pointed out then that it thought it was misleading. Now here's it's happened again and it's the same player.

As I said in that October article I'm not a professional reporter and I never went to school for journalism so maybe I've got this all wrong... So, I reached out to our resident AP style expert Jeff Nusser who has a degree in Journalism from Washington State and was a copy editor for both The Tacoma News Tribune and CBSSports.com. He also runs our site about the Washington State Cougars... He had this to say about whether such headlines are considered acceptable.

It's an acceptable way of writing headlines in that they assume the reader will understand that if there aren't any quote marks around the words, then that means it's paraphrased.

Is that a good idea? I don't know. The fact that you're asking the question in the first place suggests that confusion can take place, which is what you want to try and avoid. My personal preference would be to use at least a part of a direct quote with the appropriate quote marks so that nobody's putting any words in anyone's mouth.

 

Seems perfectly reasonable. We've certainly written headlines like this ourselves, but always included at least a portion of an exact quote. It seems to me that doing otherwise at best creates confusion and at worst purposefully misleads.

Maybe this is the kind of stuff that makes the guy want to berate members of the local media at the OTAs...