The importance of the headline
There are number of studies that have concluded that a majority of news consumers don't read anything beyond the headline. For instance, the Center for Public Affairs Research and the American Press Institute tells us that:
roughly six in 10 people acknowledge that they have done nothing more than read news headlines in the past week. And, in truth, that number is almost certainly higher than that, since plenty of people won't want to admit to just being headline-gazers but, in fact, are.
Today's Ogden headlines
And here is the Intelligencer headline from an AP story on the front page of this morning's Wheeling Intelligencer:
EPA Asks Americans What Rules to Cut, Gets Earful
When I saw the headline, I assumed that given Ogden Newspapers' anti-EPA bias, the article would feature Americans complaining about recent EPA rules like the recent Clean Streams Rule. Here, however, is the opening paragraph:
The Trump administration got an earful Tuesday from people who say federal rules limiting air and water pollution aren’t tough enough, even as it was seeking suggestions about what environmental regulations it should gut.
I was a bit surprised that the article was even published. That said, the headline, while accurate, was ambiguous because it didn't state what Americans told the EPA. Rereading the headline, it struck me that even though the headline was not clear, most of those who saw it probably didn't read the article because they had already drawn their own conclusion about what the article said. (My hunch would be that some, if not most, would believe that the article contained anti-EPA opinions not unlike those found in the news and editorial pages of our local papers.)
The headline's ambiguity continued to bother me and so I checked online to see how other news sources headlined the AP article. I obviously did not check every one of the 600+ news sources that printed the article, but I did check a couple of pages worth. Every news source that I checked, except for two, used the following headline:
EPA Asks What Rules to Cut, Gets Earful About Dirty Water
That headline was not ambiguous and it clearly summarized what followed. Perhaps more important would be the results: even the majority of readers who read only the headline learned that the EPA was under fire for possibly cutting rules that insured clean water -- something they would not have learned from the Intelligencer headline.
As noted, I found only two sources that did not use the AP headline. Obviously the Wheeling Intelligencer was one. The other was the Fairmont Sentinel located in Fairmont, Minnesota which used the following headline:
EPA gets earful on rules reforms
Hmmmm, like the Intelligencer's headline, it makes no mention of dirty water. Guess who owns the Fairmont Sentinel?