Thursday, April 25, 2013

Short Takes| The power of a (misleading) headline ...

The Alaska Dispatch posted its story on Conoco Alaska's first quarter 2013 earnings this afternoon.  The headline reads:
ConocoPhillips reports $540 million in first-quarter Alaska profits
Let that soak in for a moment and reflect on your reaction.  And then, compare that with the reaction you would have if the story instead carried the following headline:
 Alaska receives $900 million, ConocoPhillips $540 million on first-quarter Alaska production
As we have written elsewhere on these pages, Alaska and Alaskans face some very challenging decisions in the years ahead as we come to grips with the state's oil and fiscal policies.  What the state is earning from oil is as directly relevant to those discussions, if not more so, than what the state's investors are earning.

Focusing attention only on what others receive, without providing in the same breath also what the state already is receiving, misleads Alaskans.  It fails to provide the additional context that the state already is receiving significantly more.

If the state's news sources are truly interested in educating Alaskans (rather than spinning them), they should provide both numbers at the same time, and indicate the importance of each by including them in the headlines.  The Dispatch's approach of putting a private investor's share in the headline, with the state's buried seven paragraphs down is both disappointing and unhelpful.