July 13, 2009
Today is my day to rant a little about a newspaper article over the weekend that really got me riled up.
This week’s pick of the bunch is a headline from the NZ Herald proclaiming that “Leaky house costs owner’s life”. For my non New Zealand readers – there is a problem with a number of houses built in the past few years here where a combination of poor workmanship, fault materials and terrible design has lead to the framing literally rotting inside the walls – these problems are generally lumped under the heading “Leaky House Syndrome”. There is a judicial process to seek some redress but it’s a long and drawn out process.
Anyway – in this case what actually transpired was that a businessman was trying to prop up his business by borrowing against his house. The pre-existing problems with the house caused by leaky building syndrome meant that the bank would not accept it as security and the person, in despair, took their own life. Clearly (and I’m surmising here) there were multiple reasons for the bank denying credit – quite possibly it was a combination of the issues with the house, along with concerns about the viability of the business itself that led the bank to decline.
While the headline is sure to increase newspapers sales and pageviews, it simply does not portray the truth which is that a failing business led to this suicide, or quite possibly an ongoing battle with depression. But neither of those options are nearly as exciting as the rabble rousing headline the editor chose.
I shouldn’t be surprised – for decades an increasingly competitive media landscape has resulted in newspapers having to resort to these sorts of headlines (or worse, Paparazzi pictures of celebrities) in order to sell editions – I can’t help but think that it must be depressing for the poor report to either have to chose such a fatuous headline, or alternatively have it thrust upon them by some chain-smoking, alcoholic editor trying to prop up his flagging career.
But perhaps that’s a little harsh…