Headlines are often the only text a reader takes in. That’s why good journalism should accurately reflect article content.
The following headline on the website of KUOW radio in Seattle misleads readers. In a small focus group, readers thought the headline suggested a health hazard in water. The headline proclaimed “Wifi wires will run through water pipes in northern Washington town”.
Below is the text contained in the article below the headline.
Starting next month, people in Anacortes can get something unusual in their drinking water: the internet.
A normally busy sidewalk on Seattle’s University Way Northeast has been cordoned off for an all-too-common reason: the concrete is being torn up to put in new fiber optic cable.
An hour north, the seaside town of Anacortes has found a way to avoid all that disruption: fiber optics cables in existing water pipes.
The city of Anacortes in Skagit County is making internet a public utility in an unexpected way — running fiber optic cables through water pipes.
Sitting inside Anacortes’ main water pipe is a skinny plastic tube, like a drinking straw inside a glass of water.
“We have inserted a fiber optics cable inside of live water lines all the way from Mount Vernon to Anacortes,” said Fred Buckenmeyer, who runs the city’s public works department. “First in North America.”
Buckenmeyer said this internet tube is made of the same plastic as the water pipe it sits inside.
“Like having a water pipe inside a water pipe,” he said. “No chance of contamination or anything like that.”
Buckenmeyer said the utility had lots of leftover capacity after installing a fiber-optic system for monitoring the various pumping stations along its water system. He said this novel approach cost less than the alternative: digging under the Skagit River, the Swinomish Slough and 15 miles of farms, wetlands, streets and sidewalks along the way.
City officials say they hope to entice customers away from Comcast with locally owned and cheaper internet service.
Project manager Jim Lemberg said if municipal broadband can capture a third of the Anacortes market for internet service, the project will pay for itself in 15 years.
Here’s why this headline misleads the public.
The article talks about “fiber optics cables in existing water pipes”. Fiber is not wire. Referring to fiber as wire is completely misleading. “Wire” is never mentioned in the article.
Wifi is radio, hence radio waves. “Wifi wires” is nearly a contradiction in terms. Many times wire is used to make a connection from a router to an access point (which is the radio transceiver). The access point in turn uses antennae for the radio waves.
Radio transmission through water does not work well. Wifi is best when line-of-sight through air.
Wifi is never mentioned in the article. “Internet” is referred to three times.
The bottom line: KUOW is misleading the public with a headline that barely reflects article content.
Is there any wonder why the consuming public distrusts the media? The Society of Professional Journalists had started a project on distrust of media. Based on this KUOW article, it is easy to understand why there is distrust in media.