Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Misleading headline about Pope Benedict XVI, Condoleeza Rice

There’s a story on that really exemplifies how the art of headline writing can truly be used to mislead. The recent story on Breitbart came with this headline: Pope refuses to meet Rice.

When I first saw that, I wondered if Pope Benedict XVI had some issue with America and was refusing to meet U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as a way of protesting. Or perhaps they had some type of religious disagreement. Or perhaps it was simply to protest things about America the Vatican disagrees with: abortion, the death penalty, contraception.

So, why did the pope refuse to meet with Ms. Rice?

Believe it or not, the reason is harmless: he’s on vacation and, according to Breitbart, had spent all of August (the time when Rice wanted to have an audience with him) refusing to meet with any political leaders. The news agency also reports that diplomatic relations between the United States and the Vatican are great.

But, of course, you have to read the article to find these things out, and deeper to realize just how harmless the Pope’s refusal was. Still, Rice is said to have wanted to meet with him as she attempted to bolster her diplomatic credibility before traveling to the Middle East.

This story reminds me loosely of an article I read last year in a Michigan newspaper. The headline spoke of how animals in labs were showing homosexual behavior. Only when you read deep into the article (which few people probably did, I suppose) do you learn that the behavior occurs primarily under controlled conditions and when the animals are injected with certain chemicals.

Sounds like what we need are a few good headline writers.

(Photo of Pope Benedict XVI courtesy of

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