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.
Obesity 'Virus' Spread Like Common Cold, Scientists Say
‘Causation and Correlation’ Least Attended Lecture by Undergrads
Just this month, FOX News said The Sun said an obesity virus has been identified; that you could become infected – and then fat. Far be it from me to question the journalistic integrity or the analytical skills of either of these sources or how high up they can ding the full-o-shit-o-meter.
Instead let’s go right to the fountainhead of this work, Dr. Nikhil Dhurandhar, of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center. Dr. Dhurandhar did indeed conduct the research — and came to conclusions that make it glaringly obvious he skipped statistics class the day the lecture topic was “Causation and Correlation.”
Let’s go find someone who knows a thing or two about medical research, as well as causation and correlation, to give us their take on Dr. Dhurandhar’s work. Kathryn M. Levasseur, from Harvard Medical School, says, “First of all, it is important to note that a virus's ability to increase one's risk for obesity is not the same as actually causing obesity. Furthermore, it is unclear how infection with Ad-36 might increase one's risk for obesity.” No matter how you many times you read Dr. Dhurandhar’s research, and no matter how you interpret it, nowhere does it say, "Here is the fat-ass smoking gun."
If this story sounds familiar, it’s because the findings were first released about two years ago. We’ll let The Sun slide because UFOs are really more their forte, but the guys at FOX News are going to have to produce a valid tardy slip from the main office.
Wannabe Officer, 14, Dupes Chicago Police
O. Henry Stirs in His Grave
A young teenager with aspirations of becoming a cop, having already taken part in a Chicago youth program for children interested in policing, successfully posed as a police officer for about five hours before he was discovered. Unfortunately, the one thing that can stand in the way of his dream is a criminal record. He has been duly charged.
You know what sucks more than a 14-year-old pretending to be a cop? A 14-year-old who isn’t pretending when he joins a gang, assaults people, sells drugs, or robs a store. (Sung to the tune of Tom Lehrer’s “Lobachevsky”: Priorities! Never let yourself lose sight of these!)
Boca Man Arrested for 190th Time
Florida Voted “Best Place to Live” by Criminals
If you’ve ever been to Florida, you stood a good chance of running into — and becoming a victim of — Henry Farrell. This 46-year-old serial, mostly misdemeanor-committing criminal has been arrested about 50 times in Boca alone. His other 140 or so arrests were incurred elsewhere in the state. Fortunately (?), his most recent foray was felonious: car-jacking, a charge that could get him 30 years.
Farrell’s brother says his sibling suffers with a mental disorder that explains his criminal behavior. The jury is still out, as it were, on an explanation for Florida’s criminal justice system.
Bathroom at Center of Search for 11-Year-Old Adam Herrman
Arrest Doug and Valerie Herrman Already!
The original headline leads the unknowing reader to believe authorities are looking for preteen, Adam Herrman. They’re hoping to find a 21-year-old Adam Herrman, but they’re pretty sure they’re going to find the decade-old remains of a preteen boy.
Doug and Valerie Herrman never reported their adopted son as missing. He had run away a few times, they said, but he always returned. When Adam ran away in 1999, the Herrmans thought nothing of it. They continued to think nothing of it even as they moved away to a different town.
Officials say the Herrmans are possible suspects. Crystal Herrman, the biological daughter of the possible suspects, hinted to KSN that she was the one who alerted authorities to Adam’s absence last month. She also talked about abuse Adam suffered at the hands of the Herrmans, who maintain they had nothing to do with Adam’s disappearance.
That’ll happen when you don’t report a missing child. There will be “nothing to do.”
It’s hoped this case is resolved quickly and doesn’t drag on as did other “It’s so obvious you’re guilty we’re going to yell rude things at you murderous pigs as you enter and exit the courthouse” cases, like the “Me? A cold-blooded killer? Get outa here!” murders of Laci Peterson and Maria Lauterbach.
Internet Users Worldwide Surpass 1 Billion in December
Global Obesity Rate Climbs to 1 Billion
Unless all the people who use the Internet around the world are also all the obese people around the word — and their obesity can be directly tied to their Internet use — there’s no reason to believe one has anything to do with the other. But you know, there might be something to it. I’m just sayin’.
The only point I really want to make is that articles about obesity don’t need to include a picture of an obese person’s butt. (And it’s always the butt. What’s up with that?) We get it. They’re fat. We know what fat looks like. Seriously, we don’t need a visual. Just stop it.