A "gotcha" headline will get you "hits" these days, but a headline in today's Detroit News may go a bit too far.
It's for a piece by Tom Greenwood about Detroit Police Department Chief James Craig, headlined "Chief: 'I wouldn't' pump gas in Detroit overnight".
You can already hear the monologues on tonight's talk shows, can't you? If Detroit's big, bad police chief wouldn't fuel up at a Detroit gas station at night, who would? You don't want to get out of your car for one second in downtown Mogadishu, right? Slap it up on social networking, where the headline and a summary might appear, and it will reach millions.
Fewer, however, will read the actual story, which is mostly a bunch of good advice from Chief Craig, at a press conference about a spate of carjackings over the weekend, relayed by journalist Greenwood.
For instance, the full quote from Craig, when asked if he'd pump gas in Detroit overnight, is: "I wouldn't, but if I had to, I would." The headline quotes two words from the chief — "I wouldn't" — even though the full quote goes on to basically say that he would do it out of necessity. The full quote isn't a flat refusal to much as a statement of preference.
And, as the article points out, the chief speaks from experience: In October of 2013, Craig says he almost fell victim to carjackers himself on a Friday night. Ask 10 people who were almost carjacked in Detroit at night if they'd gas up their buggies after dark and see if you don't get at least nine people saying, "Not unless I had to."
The chief also gave good advice in the piece, saying, "I'd probably be very aware of my surroundings," adding that most gas station carjackings take place between 11:30 p.m. and 2 a.m.
But you could probably fill a phone booth with the people who actually perused the full story and got all that useful information. Instead, you'll hear people sniggering around the water cooler about that headline.
Say what you will about Chief Craig, but he at least has the appearance of a plain-speaking and truthful public servant. It has rankled people that he's said Detroit homeowners should consider owning a handgun for self-defense. But that just seems to be the way he is: He offers frank and actionable advice where other preening politicians would yammer on about "challenges" and "opportunities." Try to imagine that stink bomb of a question being directed at any other area politician, and it's easy to imagine the careful dodging and shameless pussyfooting they'd engage in. For his refreshing candor, Chief Craig deserves our earnest thanks, not our sly giggles.
What's more, lost in all the fuss over what Craig would do is the fact that the DPD seems to be making headway against carjacking. DPD statistics show Detroit carjackings are down 19 percent from 2014 and 37 percent from 2013. Even in a shrinking city, these would seem to be real gains in the fight against crime.
But you'd have to read the article's last two paragraphs to get that information. Fat chance of that happening these days, right?