Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Straits Times Changes Headline 4 Times Today!

There are possibly three reasons why I continue to pay money to read the Straits Times online. The first reason is that I want to know what others are reading daily, the second is I want to know what I'm supposed to know, and the third is that I get to experience pure journalistic gems like what has happened today.

In a continuing episode of Stop The Presses, we shall look at an article about foreigners who are going to be hired by one of the two new casinos to be opened here. The Sentosa Integrated Resort (IR) seems to be hiring a lot of foreigners rather than locals, and people are seemingly complaining about this. Mr Wang has the full text reproduced in his blog.

The problem is that the title of the article published this morning, "Singaporeans will get most IR jobs", does not seem to indicate what the rest of the article is trying to convey (because Singaporeans will not be getting the most IR jobs, it seems). Coincidentally, it was just today that I explained to my students that a newspaper article's headline is very important. In situational writing, if the exam question requires the student to write a report/article with a particular title, then the rest of the article should be adjusted accordingly. Mr Wang hypothesizes that in this case, the headline was perhaps written separately from the article. The problem was that the article did not say what the headline meant!

Now at this point in time, if I were the reporter who wrote the story, my head will probably just explode. How can I possibly reconcile this intractable dilemma?! So, the only ethical thing to do was to change the headline a few minutes after the first version went online, as Mr Wang suggests. The second iteration of the headline reads "IR jobs for foreigners?" Indeed, I think that the reporter might have been trying to send a coded SOS message out to alert readers: as pointed out by a commenter, he spelt his own name wrongly to accompany the first unreasonable and erroneous headline, only to correct it later to accompany the more reasonable amendment. (This need not be true; I just thought it would be funny if this really was what happened!)

Anyway, the title didn't seem to satisfy some people, and it was changed yet again to "Buzz Over Resort Jobs". I was just checking the STReader, and the title is now "Uproar over reports of IR jobs going to foreigners". I think this is a reasonable headline. At the very least, it isn't factually wrong!

4th Headline

So, what can we learn from this? Well, we learn that it is not easy to write newspaper headlines sometimes! Secondly, the various attempts to change the headline is a story in itself. I hope the reporter will continue to be on the case and will look forward to more updates. It's a most fascinating way of presenting a story!

Background reading: Mr Wang's entry.

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