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What Did CNN Mean to Say?

December 23rd, 2008 by Bob Bly

A story headline on today reads:

“Shirtless Obama snapped on beach.”

For a second, I envisioned Obama running around on a beach without a shirt in the winter, having snapped under the strain of the looming presidency, gone completely insane.

A second later, I realized the headline meant that he had been “snapped” — his picture taken by a photographer.

This reminds me of an old article telling about a priest who enjoyed contemplative thought while standing under the stars at night in front of his church.

The article said, “The minister was drinking in the night air.”

His parishioners thought he had become a lush.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best: “It is not enough to write so you can be understood. You must write so that you cannot be misunderstood.”


This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008 at 12:45 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

57 responses about “What Did CNN Mean to Say?”

  1. Online Advertising Live » Blog Archive » What Did CNN Mean to Say? - blog - direct … said:

    […] unknown wrote an interesting post today onWhat Did CNN Mean to Say? – blog – direct …Here’s a quick excerptType in your email address today to receive the Bob Bly Direct Response Letter. Privacy Statement Click here for Newsletter Archive Bob Bly’s Direct Response Letter Free tips for doubling your response rates … […]

  2. Dianna Huff said:

    I actually read “shirtless” without the “r” and had to go back and read it again.

  3. Marketing your business said:

    Well said Bob ! I’m hopeful that the more I write the less I am misunderstood. (I hope that made sense).

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays !

  4. Terrance Charles said:

    I mean, if you really read it “shirtless obama snapped on beach” that’s what it does sound like. Sometimes they have to be careful not to send the wrong message just for a headline.

    Terrance Charles

  5. Big Marketing For You » Blog Archive » What Did CNN Mean to Say? - blog - direct … said:

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  6. Becca said:

    I have to laugh at this because I had a similar thought when I read that headline. It’s a great example of how important it is to be clear with what you’re printing. And how hard it can be.

  7. Kristi Holl said:

    Reminds me of my English teacher in junior high who taught on this subject using the line “Throw Mama from the train a kiss.” I can’t remember the teacher’s name, but I’ve never forgotten that line!
    Kristi Holl
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  8. Kenn Gividen said:

    And now for a copy-paste of the old Church Bulletin Bloopers…

    Bertha Belch, a missionary from Africa, will be speaking tonight at Calvary Methodist. Come hear Bertha Belch all the way from Africa.

    Announcement in a church bulletin for a national PRAYER & FASTING Conference: “The cost for attending the Fasting and Prayer conference includes meals.”

    The sermon this morning: “Jesus Walks on the Water.”
    The sermon tonight: “Searching for Jesus.”

    Our youth basketball team is back in action Wednesday at 8 PM in the recreation hall. Come out and watch us kill Christ the King.

    “Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Don’t forget your husbands.”

    The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been cancelled due to a conflict.

    Remember in prayer the many that are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say “hell” to someone who doesn’t care much about you.

    Don’t let worry kill you off – let the Church help.

    Miss Charlene Mason sang “I will not pass this way again”, giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.

    For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs.

    Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.

    Barbara remains in the hospital and needs blood donors for more transfusions. She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of Pastor Jack’s sermons.

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    A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.

    At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be “What is Hell?” Come early and listen to our choir practice.

    Eight new choir robes are currently needed, due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.

    Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles, and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.

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    Attend and you will hear an excellent speaker and heave a healthy lunch.

    The church will host an evening of fine dining, superb entertainment, and gracious hostility.

    Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 pm – prayer and medication to follow.

    The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.

    This evening at 7 pm there will be a hymn sing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.

    Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B.S. is done.

    The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.

    Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use back door.

    The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The Congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.

    Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.

    Mrs. Johnson will be entering the hospital this week for testes.

    The Associate Minister unveiled the church’s new tithing campaign slogan last Sunday “I Upped My Pledge – Up Yours.”

    Our next song is “Angels We Have Heard Get High.”

  9. Stacey said:

    It reminds me of a sign I once saw in a store window that said “Sale on Fur Coats – Buy One Coat, Get the Other Half Free”

  10. Orlando Personal Trainer said:

    I was just helping my son (before Christmas break) with an English assignment on misplaced modifiers. A sentence read, “Blanketed with snow, the van slid down the slippery hill.”

    Of course that was just one of about 25 he had to correct but it’s a common occurrence to misplaced modifiers in the English language. In the previous sentence it sounds as if the van was blanketed with snow. To correct it you could change it to something like, “Blanketed with snow, the slippery hill caused the van to slid backwards.”

    Of course CNN could have rewrote the cation to read, “A shirtless Obama was snapped at the beach.”

    Since we are talking about it though, maybe they meant exactly what they said?

  11. Note Taking Nerd #2 said:


    This reminds me of Jay Leno’s “Headlines” shtick he does on his show.

    Proof read your stuff. Have someone else proofread it. And then have that same person read it out loud to you.

    I can’t imagine any of those ads that made Jay’s list went through that process.

    Note Taking Nerd #2

  12. Steve Martin said:

    Shirtless Obama snapped on beach!! lol i heard they were comparing him with arnods body

  13. Morgan said:

    What a silly story from CNN anyway. A shirtless Obama? Who cares?

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  19. Liaqat Ali Nawaz said:

    I had a similar idea when I read that headline, so I have to laugh at this. This is a good example of how important it is to be clear about what you print. And how difficult it is!

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  24. Sara Cave said:

    Well, I think this a deliberate attempt to be misunderstood. Because being clear about it would make the news boring, and let’s admit it – no one likes a boring piece of news. I think being creative enough to leave room for doubt is a quality that every writer should have. I remember when I decided to pay someone to write my dissertation and was looking for a website, I hired one that was the most creative in its approach – because I wanted my dissertation writer to be creative. In my opinion, headlining it in this way is a clever move – otherwise, you wouldn’t be talking about it.

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