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Ask The Post
Posted at 10:53 AM ET, 09/19/2011

Q&A: Why the inaccurate headlines? How do you choose photos for the front page? Politico’s influence

Many readers have responded to our call to submit questions for Post editors. Managing Editor Raju Narisetti has answered several in the comments section. Note that we've edited questions and responses in this post, but you can browse the full questions and answers (and submit your own) by clicking here or by using the hash tag #askthepost on Twitter.

We’ll continue to round up questions and answers in posts throughout the week.

Q: I’ve noticed that headlines in both the print and digital editions of the Post often do not accurately summarize the article they reference. In some cases, the headline doesn’t capture the most important point of the story. Sometimes the headline is actually incorrect. Why? — BlanketyBlank

A: from managing editor Raju Narisetti: The same story in print and online often has different headlines since the constraints (of space, in print) or the needs (optimizing for search, on the web) are different for different platforms. It is difficult to respond to broad criticism of headlines/summaries (called blurbs in newsroom lingo) being inaccurate. So many people see Web headlines (about 2 million different readers a day) that it is extremely rare for an “actually incorrect” headline to stay that way for long. Since humans write headlines, errors will always happen. Please do flag us when you see an incorrect headline so it can be promptly fixed. You can use a couple of different forms/e-mails (at the bottom of any Web page in the footer) to do that.

Note: Submit corrections here or e-mail the appropriate editor to alert us.

Q: Given the plethora of photos of Hurricane Irene’s aftermath, why did The Washington Post and The New York Times choose the same photos for their front pages? — C3rd

A: from managing editor Raju Narisetti: It is a rare coincidence since neither paper coordinates such decisions and neither paper’s photo editors really prefer that outcome. The times it has happened has often been about events that are not necessarily in our back yard (and thus not entirely shot by our staff photographers) and when we turn to wire/photo services (AP, Getty, Reuters, AFP etc.) for images. Most papers subscribe to more or less the same set of wire/photo services. Sometimes, especially when it comes to staged events with restricted access to shoot an image, it is quite possible that the most compelling image is what gets recommended by photo editors and ends up getting used.

Q: How much has Politico influenced how you cover politics on the web? — dhanks

A: from managing editor Raju Narisetti: Politico has done a remarkable job in the relatively short time it has been around in establishing itself as a key content provider when it comes to covering politics and Washington. I would like to think it has made us more competitive on the Web since Politico began and gained some traction at a time when The Post still had separate Web and print newsrooms. I am more than happy to stack our content, depth, breaking news, news alerts (speed and numbers), analysis, columnists and features in politics against theirs any day. And it doesn’t have to be my word ... happy to stack our politics readership numbers versus theirs or anyone else’s for a more objective assessment.

By Washington Post editors  |  10:53 AM ET, 09/19/2011

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