Because headlines have to give you the gist of a story in very few words, they can sometimes be taken up wrongly.
For example, Nicolas Sarkozy is currently at the funeral of Omar Bongo (nah, me neither – apparently he’s President of Gabon). I know this because my attention was grabbed by a headline on the BBC News Website which read ” Sarkozy jeered at Bongo funeral.”
Christ, I thought, that’s going a bit far, even for Nick. I had visions of him sitting sneering in a corner saying “You call ziss a palace? – we have maisons de chiens bigger zan zis palace. And your vin is merde, it tastes like lion’s peess. And I am much, much taller zan ziss Bongo was.” (Zat, sorry, that last part would be true. Mr Bongo apparently wore built-up heels to make himself look taller. As a shorter gentleman myself who was a teenager during the Platform-sole 70s I could have told him that this doesn’t work, and this -> photograph provides further proof).
But of course when I read the article I realised that it was Sarkozy who was jeered, by sections of the crowd (always a good move when the leader of one of the nuclear-capable states turns up in your tiny country).
While my misunderstanding in this case is not the BBC’s fault, headlines can often be deliberately misleading, as Holemaster recently pointed out. Unscrupulous sub-editors will often use a sexed-up headline to encourage you to read an otherwise fairly dull article.
I frown on such tactics.