Writing headlines to whip up a frenzy of comments about kids

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 27 October 2006

You have to hand it to the Daily Mail, which certainly knows how to write headlines online to whip up a storm. Today's prime example is their story "Outcry as brother and sister get ASBO for playing in the street"

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The thing is, it simply doesn't appear to be true.

By the time you click through to the article, the assertion "get ASBO" has already been watered down to "face Asbo" in the slightly less dramatic "Siblings face Asbo for playing football in street"

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Now, once you start reading the article it seems that the children are only being investigated following complaints, not that they have been issued with an ASBO:

the youngster's father Richard, a managing director of a heating firm, is being hauled in to be quizzed by officials at Manchester City Council's Anti Social Behaviour Team which applies for ASBOs.

It is believed the investigation was sparked by a complaint from one neighbour in their smart cul-de-sac.

In a letter to Mr Rogers, 37, case development officer Chibuzo Otache told him: "You are under no obligation to attend this interview but it is in your best interests to do so."

And if that doesn't quite square with the Daily Mail's headline "Outcry as brother and sister get ASBO for playing in the street", then a paragraph even further into the article makes things very clear indeed.

Council bosses say the youngsters cannot be issued with an ASBO as they are below under [sic] the age of criminal responsibility.

This hasn't stopped a deluge of comments on the article either berating the children for kicking footballs, or berating the council involved for being PC:

What a truly sad country this inept government has created when children aren't allowed to play in the street anymore without fear of being 'shopped'. Yet another gross over reaction from another 'jobsworth' council, bet they're looking to get a 'fine' out of it, and perhaps a promotion as well. Pathetic.

I left a comment myself, asking the Mail to clarify which was correct, the headline on the front page of their website, or the statement in the article that the children involved were too young to be issued with an ASBO, but sadly it seems the community editorial team at the Mail's online site didn't pick my submission for publication.

There was a similar case in the paper yesterday, about Tesco having to withdraw from sale a pole-dancing kit aimed at children - Tesco condemned for selling pole dancing toy. That provoked over 50 comments of spluttering outrage, barely any of which had spotted that the item in question was actually an 8 foot poll aimed at adults which had been misclassified on the website. It is still very much on sale.

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