How not to do it

Composing headlines that are both funny or striking AND accurate is a pretty difficult art. On the other hand, composing headlines that are funny and misleading is dead easy. This lead story from the Cambridge student newspaper is a textbook case of the latter. The peg for it is the fact that Cambridge University had a very successful 40-year bond issue yesterday to raise money for the next phase of the University’s development, which includes a massive new development in North-West Cambridge. The issue — which was for £350 million — was massively (four times) oversubscribed.

The Varsity story under the headline is actually reasonably accurate. But clearly the sub-editor who composed the headline hadn’t read it. A bond issue is not an asset sale, but a standard way used by governments, institutions and corporations to borrow money at favourable rates. The real story behind the bond issue is that the ratings agencies — and the pension funds that rely on them to assess creditworthiness — think that Cambridge University is a better bet than most of the governments in the Western world.

Still (to look on the bright side), the kid who wrote the headline may have a promising future — on the Daily Express, perhaps. Or perhaps the Star.

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