BBC Headline #2

My second example of a poor headline from BBC News. This time it’s from their website rather than the iPhone app.

US spaceplane ‘spying on China’

This headline is poor in the following categories:

Quotation in Headline
No Shit Sherlock
Secondary Source

Quotation in Headline
You can write anything in a headline if you put it in quotes. Just ask any old nutter or naturopath what they think about something.

No Shit Sherlock
Is this really news? Are we to assume that the USA does not spy on other world powers? The only interesting thing is the existence of a super-spy-plane, but given rumour and speculation on the web this isn’t a surprise either. The USA have always had secret stuff. Are they going to some out and deny it? No, because that would mean guilt in many people’s eyes. Are they going to confirm it? No!

Using a Secondary Source
The text below the headline shows the article is essentially lifted from another publication which means the BBC can print anything in the original article as it counts as a source. Have they independently confirmed any of this? I doubt it.

BBC Headlines

This is, hopefully, going to be a semi-regular blog post topic. I’ve decided now is the time to give this website some meaning other than my vanity project! It’s taken a while to think about and find my area of “expertise” but this is it:

Rubbish headlines on the BBC News website

It’ll be like shooting fish in a barrel! I used to have an image of the website here but have decided it was a copyright infringement. All headlines will be linked to the original stories.

Spiderman web ‘closer to reality’ 

Headline taken from the BBC News iPhone app. As a first example this is a goody. We have two main headline issues:

  • Unreasonable extrapolation
  • Quotation in the headline

Unreasonable Extrapolation
Take a science paper and then make the most extreme possible prediction based very loosely on the science. As an example, lemon juice killing cancer cells in a petri dish does not lead to drinking lemon juice curing cancer in a human.

Quotation in Headline
Anyone could be asked for a quotation and then that used in a headline. Quotations need to be in context so the reader can decide their validity. For example a peddler of quackery might insist (incorrectly) that there is plenty of evidence for the efficacy of homoeopathic products but that does not mean that should be in a headline. People rely on headlines being true.

Spiderman web “closer to reality”

I don’t think anyone would be taken in by this headline. Get the credit card out! I want a wrist ejaculator now so I can fly from building to building.