Betteridge's law of headlines - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia f

Betteridge’s law of headlines is an adage that states: “Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.” It is named after Ian Betteridge, a British technology journalist,[1] although the general concept is much older.[2] The observation has also been called “Davis’ law[3][4] or just the “journalistic principle”.[5]

Betteridge explained the concept in a February 2009 article, regarding a TechCrunch article with the headline “Did Just Hand Over User Listening Data To the RIAA?”:

This story is a great demonstration of my maxim that any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word “no”. The reason why journalists use that style of headline is that they know the story is probably bullshit, and don’t actually have the sources and facts to back it up, but still want to run it.[6]

Five years before Betteridge’s article, a similar observation was made by UK journalist Andrew Marr in his 2004 book My Trade. It was among Marr’s suggestions for how a reader should approach a newspaper if they really wish to know what is going on:

If the headline asks a question, try answering ‘no’. Is This the True Face of Britain’s Young? (Sensible reader: No.) Have We Found the Cure for AIDS? (No; or you wouldn’t have put the question mark in.) Does This Map Provide the Key for Peace? (Probably not.) A headline with a question mark at the end means, in the vast majority of cases, that the story is tendentious or over-sold. It is often a scare story, or an attempt to elevate some run-of-the-mill piece of reporting into a national controversy and, preferably, a national panic. To a busy journalist hunting for real information a question mark means ‘don’t bother reading this bit’.[7]

Betteridge has admitted violating his own law (writing a question headline with the answer “yes”) in an article titled “Does the Mac App Store let you use software for commercial use?” published at his own site.[8]

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1. Think about your project and only the project

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Kim Jong Il rarely appeared in digitally altered photos. Instead, he did a different type of misdirection. In almost every photo of him, KJI wore the same clothing. It’s as if he only owned one set of clothing (or a closet full of the same discount gray suits). This wasn’t because KJI had no taste. Instead, it allowed his counter-intelligence people to publish any photo of him over the decades as if it were a recent photo. People couldn’t just look at a photo and identify when it was taken.

In contrast to Kim Jong Il, President Obama has sported different hair cuts, different suits, different ties, different pins, etc. If you know how Obama was dressed on any given day, then seeing another photo of him looking the exact same way suggests that it was taken on the same day. The same goes for Presidents Bush, Clinton, Reagan, etc. Yes, the American President may wear the same suit days or weeks later, but he usually changes up the pins, ties, shirts, etc.

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For example, here are some photos of Putin. If I told you that they were taken on the same day, would you believe me? (He appears to be wearing the same clothing.) What if I told you that they were taken over a two-year period?