No, Actually We Meant the Opposite of All That

This is why headlines matter.

As part of an otherwise very commendable effort to address sexual assault on campus, earlier this week the Iowa State Daily, the campus newspaper of Iowa State University, published a sidebar intended to list the conditions in which people were unable to give consent to sex.

Due to a highly unfortunate copyediting error, however, the headline of the article was “Who Can Give Consent.” The piece thus read:

Who can give consent?

Persons who are asleep or unconscious

Persons who are incapacitated due to the influence of drugs, alcohol or medication

Persons who are unable to communicate consent due to a mental or physical condition

Generally, minors under the age of 16

Actually none of these people can give consent. That’s sort of the point.

On Wednesday the paper posted a correction:

In the version of this story that was published in print on Jan. 12, 2011, a sidebar was mistakenly headlined. The sidebar, “Who cannot give consent?” was headlined, in print, as “Who can give consent?” This headline error, of course, dramatically changes the meaning of the information presented in the sidebar, and the Daily deeply regrets the error.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer