This Headline is Misleading

The way a headline or article is written can make a big difference to how an event is perceived.

Consider the recent video of a cyclist, doored by a parked car, causing him to be pushed into the path of a following taxi.

This has been picked up by various media outlets. Compare the headlines:

Cyclist knocked into path of oncoming taxi by car door

Heart-stopping moment cyclist falls into path of a black cab after swerving to avoid car door

Dramatic dash cam footage captures moment cyclist falls into path of oncoming taxi

With:

Terrifying moment cyclist swerves in front of London cabbie captured on film

LBC had also originally run a headline of

WATCH: Heart-stopping video captures the moment cyclist veers in front of taxi

But they since changed it to

Cyclist Almost Run Over While Avoiding Car Door

The two headlines in the second group clearly imply that the cyclist just suddenly swerved in front of the taxi, with no mention of the dooring that caused it. A casual reader, who then didn’t read the actual article, would be left with the impression that the cyclist was the agent of their own misfortune, when nothing could be further from the truth.

At least LBC responded to criticism and changed their headline to more accurately reflect the facts. At the time of writing, ITV’s is still there.

It’s pretty lazy and irresponsible of journalists (or subeditors) to write headlines like this. So if you see headlines that follow the pattern above, do please complain to the organisation, and maybe they’ll get the message.

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