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Grabbing the headlines

A Times story about sex work shows the potential damage of a badly-written headline

If you were to read only the headline of an article published by The Times on Friday, then you would conclude that “Durham University trains its students to be sex workers”—for that, word for word, is the headline that appeared.

Your correspondent has been an education journalist for almost 15 years. There is no doubt about it—it’s a dilly of a headline, and it understandably caught the eye (not only of readers, but also of the Times’ sub-editors, who later changed it online). Further and higher education minister Michelle Donelan featured in the top line of the article, with her quote later in the piece outlining how Durham’s alleged behaviour was “legitimising a dangerous industry which thrives on the exploitation of women”.

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