When a lot of people get their news electronically, skimming over headlines through news aggregators, RSS feeds, and retweets on Twitter, sometimes the majority of information people will get from an article comes from the headline.
When a headline leans towards the sensational side, or doesn't accurately reflect the information that's actually contained in the article, it's easy for poorly-represented news to spread like wildfire. This article from the UK's The Daily Telegraph, regarding Apple's self-initiated audit of its overseas manufacturing facilities, is a perfect example, with its attention-grabbing headline: "Apple Admits Using Child Labour." The sub-headline isn't any better: "Apple has admitted that child labour was used at the factories that build its computers, iPods and mobile phones."
Once a person reads those words, his or her knee-jerk reaction is most likely going to be one of disgust and horror. "How could you, Apple?" they might say. If this hypothetical reader owns a Mac or an iPhone, their eyes might glance over at it with anguished guilt; if they don't own any products from Apple, it's just one more reason not to buy them.
If you dig beyond the headline, however, to the meat of the Telegraph's article, where the actual reporting finally begins? Then you get a completely different story as early as the first sentence: "At least eleven 15-year-old children were discovered to be working last year in three factories which supply Apple." That's pretty far from the image conjured by the headline, of legions of school-aged children lined up in factories and slapping together MacBook Pros when they should be slapping together algebra homework. Instead, we find a relatively small number of teenaged factory workers -- reprehensible, but not unusual at all for overseas factories. The end of this first sentence is even more important, because it puts the focus where it belongs: three factories which supply Apple. Two paragraphs later, we find another very important bit of news not reflected in the headline: "Apple said the child workers are now no longer being used."
Other news sites performed better reporting on the matter, but at least one still had an easily misinterpreted headline. Read on to find out more.