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News That Should’ve Been Headlined Differently

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Penn Jillette, of Penn and Teller, once said, “They’re just words.” This from a man who named his television program Bullshit. I’m a huge fan of the great P&T, but c’mon – would “Crap!” have worked?

If Penn is to be believed, it should have – but it wouldn’t have because they’re not “just words” anymore than Gudrun’s cocoa-dusted truffles are “just sweets.”

The way we use words is a science unto itself. News sources count on words to do more than tell a story. Words get you to read the story.

Will we turn to page A4 after the least bit of lead or will we just move on to the next headline? Will we click to see what happened or will we keep surfing?

The answer is in the headline. To get the most readers, you gotta make it juicy, enticing, and — if possible — sexy and/or violent.

Accuracy often takes a backseat to anything that’ll make us feel anxious if we don’t read it, and hard facts might take a holiday when readership is down and our need for sensationalism is up.

If you want to know what the words of a headline really mean, just flip it around and see what floats to the surface.

Original Headline
Cartel 'Stewmaker' Says He Dissolved 300 Bodies

Revised Headline
Drug Lord Not Arrested for 300 Counts of Murder

Santiago Meza Lopez told Mexican police he is a “stewmaker,” but this man is no chef. In the course of his work for drug lord Teodoro Garcia Simental, Meza dissolved about 300 bodies in acid for $600 a week. He told authorities that the dead and disposed of had betrayed or were indebted to Garcia, who has not been found and charged with multiple murders.

Based on information provided by Meza, officials are looking for the bodies instead. Meza hopes the families of the deceased can forgive him, but I think the most he can hope for at this point is a variation on the Bible’s advice – in this case, perhaps a fry for a fry.

Original Headline
Nigerian Police Detain Goat Over Armed Robbery

Revised Headline
Nigerians are Fucking Crazy
Goats are Smarter than Nigerian Police

Witnesses said an armed robber used magic to turn himself into a goat in an attempt to avoid arrest, so they captured and turned the goat over to authorities. Nigerian police did not release the goat, instead taking into custody.

Kwara state police spokesman, Tunde Mohammed, said, "We cannot confirm the story, but the goat is in our custody. We cannot base our information on something mystical. It is something that has to be proved scientifically, that a human being turned into a goat.”

Yes, that’s what’s missing from this investigation: science.

I’ll keep an eye on this story and let you know if the goat is convicted or slated for a role in the next Harry Potter movie.

Original Headline
‘Hillside Burglar’ Suspect Held; L.A.'s Rich Relieved

Revised Headline
Rich People Have the Worst Alarm Systems
Goats are Smarter than L.A.’s Rich

Troy Thomas went from auto broker to breaking into homes, but not just any homes. Authorities say Thomas is the ringleader of the so-called ‘Hillside Burglars’, a group of guys who have burgled 150 homes in the nation’s most posh and gated communities, like Bel Air, Pacific Palisades, and Beverly Hills, for a hefty haul of some $10 million worth of cash and stuff. L.A. City Councilman Jack Weiss said, "These guys were real good. They were professionals."

Even more professional than the security companies that manned the gates and installed and maintained all those alarm systems, eh?

About Diana Hartman

Diana is a USMC (ret.) spouse, mother of three and a Wichita, Kansas native. She is back in the United States after 10 years in Germany. She is a contributing author to Holiday Writes. She hates liver & motivational speakers. She loves science & naps. For extra fun, follow her on Twitter.