Friday, April 16, 2010...4:32 pm

Modern media is rubbish #4: how to headline the latest drugs hysteria

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This one’s aimed at sub-editors again – or whoever overruled the sub who may have objected to this dreadful headline in today’s Metro.

Drug death student took meow meow

Well – that’s clear enough, surely? Some hard-partying student took the narcotic du jour and it killed her. Make it illegal quickly and with little rational debate!

Oh, wait a second – I’ve just read the story. Apparently law student Laura Main took a “cocktail” of alcohol and drugs – including not only that deadly, fashionable and stupidly named meow meow, but also GHB, a narcotic that reacts dangerously with alcohol.

And here’s what the coroner said about the case:

“The relevant drug is GHB and the cause of death was given as the combined effects of GHB and alcohol”

Nothing about booze or GHB in the headline, then, despite the fact that this is exactly what the story is about. Instead we’ve got a misleading and spurious reference to the panic of the week.

This is not only rubbish, it’s dangerous – well done.

[UPDATE: it’s been a busy week, so I’ve only just been able to trawl the web for other versions of this story. And, yes, it’s not just the Metro – though it does seem to be the reactionary wing of the media that has taken this line. The Sun, The London Standard and the Telegraph have all fallen for this – though I love the Telegraph’s house style of “miaow-miaow” for the drug]

[UPDATE 2: And, oddly, it falls to the lumpen proletariat – in the form of user-generated comments – to take the media to task. Because professional journalists are so much better…]

2 Comments

  • The Times also seems to be taking the miaow route, but with a hyphen: miaow-miaow. Pretty much takes up a headline all by itself!

  • Freelance UnboundNo Gravatar
    April 18th, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    Hi Cathy. Couldn’t find the Times story, oddly – though I confess to a proofing slip with the Telegraph style, which is indeed miaow-miaow with a hyphen…

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