September 20, 2013
If like me, you were randomly browsing the web last night (because hey, Scandal was a repeat and I had nothing better to do), you may have seen this headline from MSN:
“Pope: Church cannot focus on abortion, gays”
And if, like me, you were intrigued enough to click on the link and check out the specifics of the pope’s latest comments, you may have seen a headline with essentially one word change, but a significantly different context:
There are a number of ways to interpret the subtext of these two headlines, but I would argue that any way you slice it, they don’t mean the same thing. This tactic of summarizing quotes so that they’re more likely to lure an audience is far from new, and in today’s 24-hour news cycle, the ability to be taken out of context is about as easy as it is to click “Share” on Facebook. But it does serve as an important reminder to us all: the words we use matter. And so when—not if—we aren’t given the benefit of the doubt, it’s critical to understand more than just the intentions of our message, but how they’ll be received.
In other words…it’s not what you say, it’s what they hear.