Headlines: a How-not-to Guide

During lunch, I read a baffling headline in today’s print edition of the Indiana Daily Student. The story appears online with an altered headline but here is what I saw:

“Students to march in protest: event proclaims dismay with troops in Iraq”

The ugly sentence construction misleads readers. My initial interpretation of this headline was ‘students are voicing their dismay with U.S. troops in Iraq. Oh, okay, clearly these students feel that troops are doing a crappy job on U.S. tax dollars.’

Sigh. I am certain this is NOT the message that protesters wish to deliver. The article proper expresses the protesters’ mission more clearly. Protesters’ dismay is directed toward policy, not toward the men and women in uniform, who are doing one of the hardest jobs in creation.

The event isn’t dismayed with troops. Protesters are dismayed with the U.S. policy of occupation in Iraq.

I cannot claim to write clearly and concisely all of the time. I do, however, expect this of journalists. That is their job.

Clarity. It works.