Sir Hamish calls for accurate headlines

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 December, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 December, 1994, 12:00am

THANK you for the invitation to describe my New Year resolution. Instead, I hope in a spirit of seasonal goodwill you will let me suggest one for you, and indeed for all editors in the coming year. And that you will print it.

The resolution is a deceptively simple one, which if implemented would revolutionise the newspaper industry - namely, to write accurate headlines.

The suggestion arises because on December 19 the SCMP Business Post qualified for a prize for producing what must be the most inaccurate and misleading headline of the year - 'Crash forecast for property' blared the headline, followed by a sub-heading - 'Morgan Grenfell says rents and values to plunge.' Good attention-grabbing stuff. The only problem is, it is not true.

I've read the Morgan Grenfell Report, alarmed like many others by your headline, and wanting to know more. (The gist of the headline by the way is continued in the first paragraph of the article, so in this case it is not just the headline which is misleading.) The report doesn't in fact make any forecast about the property market next year. What it does say is that at their current levels, property share prices more than discount a 'worst case scenario.' On this basis it goes on to recommend buying nine property shares, with a hold on two, and a sell for three. In other words, the report provides no basis whatsoever for the headline.

Happy New Year!