Still using unhelpful headlines … and still talking about batsmen

I’ve complained before about the unhelpful and misleading headlines The Times uses when an inside page continues an article that started on the back page. Their style seems to be to invent a new headline for the rest of the article, rather than keep the original headline. Please keep the same headline throughout – Language Miscellany

They’re still at it and yesterday I see a particularly inept example. On 23 January 2023, the back page (page 64) reported on start of the England men’s cricket team’s tour to India. The headline was: Kohli out of first two tests. The back page contains the first 2 paragraphs and the beginning of the 3rd, breaking that paragraph after the first word of the 3rd sentence (‘As’)! There follows the statement: Continued on page 62

The story then continues on page 62 under the new headline:

Stokes ‘looks like a greyhound’ as he strives to be fit.
continued from back 

Under that headline, the article continues with the rest of the 3rd sentence of the 3rd paragraph (following on from the awkwardly orphaned word ‘As’). Up until that point, the article was all about the Indian superstar batter (and former captain) Virat Kohli. The rest of that paragraph is about 2 other Indian players.

The focus then switches to the England team, reporting the team’s arrival and at the end of that paragraph introducing the first reference to the aforementioned Stokes—the England captain, Ben Stokes.

Why did this throw me?

I expect an article to keep the same headline throughout, even if the article continues on a different page. But The Times doesn’t now do that.

I find this particularly disorienting because I often only skim the headlines on the back page. But then often when I get to the rest of the article, I start reading it in more detail—as indeed in this case. I might then want to back-track to read the beginning, but finding the start takes time because it seems to be talking about something else.

In this particular case, there was no reference at all to Stokes in the portion of the article on the back page. And the new headline chosen for the inside page didn’t link the inside page to the back page. That isn’t helpful—especially when the new headline erupts out of the blue in the middle of a paragraph about something completely different.  

Paul’s comment on my original post shows some other approaches The Times could try. Please keep the same headline throughout – Language Miscellany

And a word about batters

I described Virat Kohli above as a batter. In fact, the article in The Times calls him a batsman. I’ve written about this before.

I used to bat for the dinosaurs on this issue, but I now bat for the innovators. As I explained before, here are my reasons:

  • it is growing more and more unacceptable to use a term that makes half the population feel excluded.
  • no other cricketing discipline is labelled with a word ending in -man. We have always said bowler and wicketkeeper, not ‘bowlsman’ or ‘wicketkeepsman’. And although people used to say fieldsman, I haven’t heard anyone say that for decades; we now all say fielder.
  • the game’s official terminology already reflects this change, as announced by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and the International Cricket Council in 2021.

I’ve also noticed that TV commentators (male and female) invariably say batter now.

On this wording, it really is now time for The Times to move with the times.

One comment

  1. This comment is related to headlines, but not to the specific issue Peter raises. I know I am stating the obvious about the influence that headlines can have on our thinking about an issue.

    Here are headlines from news stories published by four major media yesterday about a US Department of Commerce report on the US economy in the fourth quarter of 2023:
    “U.S. economy slowed in latest quarter, but kept growing”. [FT]
    “US economy grew by 3.3% in fourth quarter”. [NY Times]
    “US economy exceeds expectations in latest quarter, boosting hopes for avoiding recession”. [ABC News]
    “US economy grew at a shocking pace in the fourth quarter” [CNN]

    With the overwhelming amount of news crossing the screens of our electronic devices, for many print and on-line stories I don’t progress beyond the headline. What’s the takeaway from each of these four headlines for the same report? Very good news? Good news? Bad news?

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