Newspaper headlines sometime ask a question, and the answer to that question is usually “no.” If the answer is “yes,” then it’s a fact and there would be no reason to ask a question. The questions are often sensation ("Will coffee kill you?” is one example) and “no” is the usual answer to a wild rumor.
American-born author Henry James (1843-1916) wrote in 1888:
“In the end, the answer to the headline, as it is to almost every question in a headline, turned out to be ‘no’.”
A blog post in 2004 stated that “a media guy told me that in 99.7% of cases, when a newspaper asks a question in a headline, the answer is ‘no’.” “Old newspaper adage: If there is a question in a headline, then the answer is almost certainly no” was cited on Twitter in August 2013.
By Henry James
New York, NY: Macmillan and Co.
1888 (2013 reprint)
On the front page of the same New York World that contained poor May McClellan’s charming Italian diary, there ran a story with the hysterical headline “ARE THE RICH GROWING POORER?” “There is great poverty and much unseen suffering in New York, beyond doubt,” it noted. “But it is a city imperial in wealth and luxury.” The story went on, about the art, the jewels, the newly rich, the “waters studded with pleasure yachts, floating palaces.” The story went on, about the art, the jewels, the newly rich, the “waters studded with pleasure yachts, floating palaces.” In the end, the answer to the headline, as it is to almost every question in a headline, turned out to be “no.”
Google Groups: alt.atheism
Heh. This was in many of our down market tabloids today. “Is the is chamber of John the Baptist?” and so on.
Years ago, a media guy told me that in 99.7% of cases, when a newspaper asks a question in a headline, the answer is “no”.
whenever you see a question in a headline the answer is no. #backlash? no. http://bit.ly/NBSsB
9:56 AM - 18 Apr 09
Is the answer to a question-marked headline always no?
Posted on February 25, 2013 by SA Mathieson
No. Not always. Just quite often, like just now.
Looking at recent articles about the NHS picked up by @ImpatientNHS with question marks in their titles, there are several variants of the question-marked headline, and they don’t all mean ‘no’.
So: is the answer to a question-marked headline ever yes?
Yes, it’s just rare. What it does indicate pretty reliably (when it’s not actually asking a question) is that the publication isn’t certain about the headline as a statement.
America catches up w @JohnRentoul’s #QTWAIN RT @campbellnyt: Journalism rule: if there is a question in a headline the answer is always no.
12:20 PM - 14 Aug 13
Old newspaper adage: If there is a question in a headline, then the answer is almost certainly no. Exhibit 5,312,476 http://www.theguardian.com/science/sifting-the-evidence/2013/aug/19/coffee-drinking-study-report …
7:44 AM - 20 Aug 13
New York City • Media/Newspapers/Magazines/Internet • Tuesday, August 20, 2013 • Permalink