Among the many editorial disagreements I have with Slate.com is the fact that, very often, their subheads or “jumpheads” (or whatever alternative web headlines are called) are written in a style that, in a desperate attempt to appear more salacious or provocative, ends up misrepresenting the content of the article in question. Happens all the time.
(Full disclosure: I applied for a job at Slate once. They didn’t even send me a rejection letter.)
This story, though, and it’s current graphic on the front page, may take the cake. Dahlia Lithwick points out that, despite the constant court-watching analysis centering on the question of who retires next and when they’ll go, the sitting justices, to the degree they say anything about it at all, insist they aren’t retiring in the near future. It goes on to say that the justices play it so close to the vest that it fuels the interest in asking the question. Yet the graphic declares “Someone’s leaving the Supreme Court soon. Who’s it gonna be?” Wha? Huh? The whole story is about the futility of asking that kind of question! About how we don’t know who’s going to leave! About how we don’t actually know someone’s going to leave at all! BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA….
I’m sorry. It just drives me crazy. And this isn’t close to the first time the heads of a Slate article have dramatically misrepresented the point of an article, in the service of being more scandalous or enticing. Slate is a publication that has come down again and again and again on the side of the prurient, over the responsible; the contrarian, over the useful; the bombastic, over the considered; the provocative, over the true and illuminating. It’s a magazine bent on sensationalism which incidentally contains media critics who constantly criticize sensationalism. I know these subheads are a little thing. But they’re reflective, I think, of an irresponsible editorial culture.