August 04, 2005


UPDATE: When you're a blogger and you screw up, you need to own up to it. Guess what? I may have been wrong on the story below.

Eugene Volokh (yeah, that guy), was nice enough to let me know he saw the same headline on this story at the Las Vegas Sun earlier today. Interestingly enough, the Sun version of this story is quite a different version than the version of the Newsday article I worked from, which I present to you in this screen shot:

To further confuse the issue, the Newsday link below now goes to another article on this topic by yet another writer, Dan Sewell.

So what is going on? There is a slight chance that the accusations I made below are true. After all, Google News is proud to consider organisations that the State Department has labeled al Qaeda-friendly disinformation mills as valued news contributors.

But there is perhaps a greater possibility that AP posted the original headline "Ohio Families Fed Up With Loss of Marines," Google dutifully copied it, and then AP or Newsday, perhaps fearing a backlash (kinda like the one below) changed the headline of the NewsDay article to something less offensive, after the Google News link was already up.

I blew it by accusing Google News of faking headlines, and I apologize for making the mistake.

The original (and now debunked) article remains below as a warning to others.


Google News headlines: When the truth isn't bad enough

"Ohio Families Fed Up With Loss of Marines" screams the Google News headline, purporting to be from a Newsday article from Joe Danborn.

But if a reader clicks the link to read the story, a far more sedate "Ohio Families Mourn Troops Killed in Iraq" greets the reader as the story's real headline. While the loss and pain of the family interviewed is obvious, the tone of Google's headline is in no way reflected in the actual article.

But Google News wouldn't purposefully misrepresent headlines… would they? At the time I noticed the seemingly reworked headline of the Marine story, there were three other stories in close proximity on that page:

Google News, or Google Fiction?

Here is a comparison of the Google News-generated headlines in the screen capture above, compared to the headlines of the actual articles.

Google Headline: In Major Breakthrough, Scientists Clone World's First Dog
Real Headline: In Major Breakthrough, Scientists Clone World's First Dog

Google Headline: Ohio Families Fed Up With Loss of Marines
Real Headline: Ohio Families Mourn Troops Killed in Iraq

Google Headline: Q&A: The Impact of John Garang's Death
Real Headline: Q&A: The Impact of John Garang's Death

Google Headline: Extremists not helpful in confirmation process
Real Headline: Extremists not helpful in confirmation process

Three of the four headlines were not changed at all; and yet one appears heavily edited.

The Google headline, "Ohio Families Fed Up with Loss" implies that Ohio Marine families are at the end of their proverbial rope, and possibly ready to revolt. The image that headline conjures up is far different than the "Ohio Families Mourn Troops Killed in Iraq" headline of the real article, which speaks to the loss experienced by family members, but in no way implies an impending mutiny against the government.

Just reading the headline, one could almost think that Google News has a ghoulish interest in using American war dead as a weapon against the present Administration. You might even get the feeling they would stoop to blatant media bias to support the opposition in an anti-war propaganda campaign.

I wonder why.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at August 4, 2005 06:13 PM | TrackBack

That's outrageous. What in the world are they thinking? That we won't notice this?

And they complain about FOX news... please.

Posted by: GradualDazzle at August 4, 2005 06:57 PM

I don't necessarily blame this on Google News. A blog I contribute to is included in Google News and when you change your post title or change your first few lines of text, the headline and excerpt remain what they were originally for awhile (maybe forever?) in Google News.

I'm betting more on Newsday having that as their original headline and changing it and Google News didn't pick up the change.

Posted by: Jeff at August 4, 2005 08:44 PM

Who uses Goggle and why? I never use it since it is owned by a couple of un-american (or worse) nuts.

Posted by: scraprion at August 4, 2005 08:58 PM

It sounds like the used the LV Sun headline, but the Newsday article. If that’s not faking a headline, it’s about as close as you can get without doing it.

Posted by: Danny Carlton at August 5, 2005 11:28 AM