Studies suggest headline discrepancies

Did the New York Times and LA Times headline writers actually read the same study about antidepressants and birth defects? The LA Times says, “Birth defect-antidepressant link found.” The actual article is relatively non-alarmist, about a recentstudy that found a very low risk of birth defects in infants born to women taking antidepressants.

The New York Times read it differently, and tells us “Antidepressants Rated Low Risk in Pregnancy.” Pretty similar article. Pretty different implications in that headline.

Also, the LA Times reports:

One of the reports, funded in part by Paxil maker GlaxoSmithKline, associated Zoloft [a Pfizer product] with a nearly sixfold increase in cases of omphalocele, in which intestines or other abdominal organs protrude from the navel. The birth defect is very rare, occurring in one of every 5,000 births, according to federal statistics.

Is this really a fair study? Is the LA Times really justified in being so quick to jump to conclusions in its headlines?

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2 Responses to “Studies suggest headline discrepancies”

  1. CS Says:

    Sorry to go all meta on you, but I have to point out that the headline of this blog post is a little misleading.

    I thought I was going to read about studies of headlines and article content that found that there are often discrepancies between title and content. With “studies” as the subject, the sentence implies that the studies found, or suggested, headline discrepancy. Or maybe it is “suggest” that is the problem. Didn’t the studies elicit or result in headline discrepancies? Perhaps “Headline discrepancies follow antidepressant study” would be more accurate.

    I guess choosing the perfect headline is harder than it seems- or maybe you chose this headline ironically to make your point?

  2. Robin Says:

    You’re right, my headline was misleading. I was originally going to go with the old standby signifier of science-induced-skepticism, “Studies suggest…” but adding the headline part just seemed too juicy to pass up.

    Maybe my next post should be called “Headline Discrepancies found to cause major confusion in news interpretation”

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