It’s All About the Weather … or Is It?

by Dan Ward

It’s pretty rare to see a headline that misses the point as badly as this online story from USA Today: “Yellen: Harsh winter slowing economy.”

I found the story after a breaking news tweet from @USAToday to its nearly 1 million followers blared that same headline.

But here’s the lede:  “Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen told Congress Thursday that the economy has shown signs of weakness in recent weeks, suggesting that a hard winter may explain only part of the slowdown and that the Fed’s generally optimistic forecasts may be at risk.”  [emphasis ours]

The story goes on to point out how the Fed chair said economic data had “softened” in recent weeks, and that economists point not only to the weather but also to factors such as rising mortgage rates.

We focus a lot on headlines when drafting articles and releases for clients, and like this headline writer, we work hard to craft headlines that will grab our audiences’ attention.  But we also ensure the headlines we write reflect the meaning of the story.

Think of it this way.  If we represented the Federal Reserve and issued a news release with the same headline and body copy as this article, would any journalists take us seriously?

Apparently, I’m not the only one to have seen the discrepancy, and USA Today has already updated the headline to a more appropriate, yet still inaccurate “Yellen: Winter’s harm to economy hard to gauge.”

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