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Hed: (n) Newsroom jargon for headlines

Headlines are tricky. They have to grab flighty readers’ attention, tell a story, and hopefully even squeeze in a witticism. The smallest choices affect readers’ first impressions and, sometimes, their only take on the story. Once a week, we analyze the different ways news outlets present the same story.

The Tale

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had his first official meeting with President Donald Trump in Washington on Monday. In addition to the introductory handshake (that quickly went viral), the day’s agenda included a meeting in the Oval Office followed by a press conference (one that was not presided over by White House press secretary Melissa McCarthy — uh, Sean Spicer). In their statements, the two leaders emphasised mutual respect for the relationship between Canada and the US, and a shared interest in the safety of their nations and borders. They vaguely discussed NAFTA and avoided talking about Trump’s travel ban against Muslims.  

The Heds

Justin Trudeau meets Donald Trump at the White House: ‘America is deeply fortunate to have a neighbour like Canada’ (National Post)

Trudeau given reassuring signals from Trump during visit (The Toronto Star)

Trump and Trudeau talk bridges, not walls after day of meetings (CTV News)

The Take

The Star’s use of the word “reassuring” says the unsaid: Some Canadians may have stressed over the potential fallout of Trudeau’s meeting with Trump. After all, the two leaders’ disparate views on current immigration policies and NAFTA feels like just the beginning of their philosophical split. If these differences of opinion were brought up at the meeting, perhaps this could have led to changes in the relationship between Canada and the US. The word “signals” hints at the fact that no large-scale decisions were made at this meeting, while the phrase “reassuring signals” gives an overall impression that Canadians can stop worrying about whether or not Trump will perceive Canada as an ally.

The Post’s headline theorizes that Trump is likely to continue honouring the solid and stable relationship between Canada and the United States. The quote is meant to highlight Trump’s respect toward Canada.

By using the word “bridge,” CTV indicates that Canada should expect further collaboration with President Trump. The headline stresses the common ground between the two leaders, despite their differences of opinion on many issues. (Remember Trudeau’s tweet following the announcement of the US travel ban?) It draws the reader’s attention to the fact Trudeau and Trump largely avoided addressing the many topics they disagree on.

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