Editor’s note: Confessions of a title reader when burned



We often lament here comments posted on our social media pages by people who have clearly only read the title of a story and not the story itself.

It’s not everyone. Our analyzes show that our readers spend a lot of time reading individual stories. Thanks for that. We spend a lot of time writing them with that in mind.

But let’s get to the headline readers. I don’t consider myself to be one of those, but if I was, I certainly wouldn’t comment on anything if I just read the title.

It was last week. This week, the headline of a press release that was emailed to me was: “Gov. Evers and DHS announce that gender neutral language options for parents will be added to Wisconsin birth certificates.

Some titles call for misinterpretation. This title certainly could have been written better, but that still doesn’t excuse the reader for not reading the story. I didn’t have time to read this press release, so I flagged it for later and moved on.

Not having read the story apparently didn’t stop me from talking about it. I have told a few friends and family that Wisconsin now allows parents not to declare a male or female child on the birth certificate. That’s right: not only did I not have Lily the press release, but I misinterpreted the headline I have did Lily.

It didn’t seem strange to me that parents no longer needed to declare on a birth certificate that the child was a boy or a girl. This doesn’t surprise me much, and I also attributed it to the path of an emerging future world.

Others I said didn’t believe me, the main one being my partner. He didn’t think it was possible.

I insisted and went the other way. I wondered who had “invented” the concepts of “male” and “female” to begin with, and who named them so. He looked at me as if a bird had come out of my mouth. We had a small problem, and while it was easy to fix, it was completely unnecessary.

The next day I went back to the press release to dig a little deeper into what that meant and learned the error in my own way. It’s the parents who can identify themselves neutrally on birth certificates as of July 1; it has nothing to do with the sex of the newborn. Specifically, birth forms in Wisconsin will be updated to include an option for “parent-parent” in addition to “mother-to-father.” The change reflects the administration’s commitment to gender-neutral terminology and the recognition that families are diverse and should all be recognized and valued in state systems.

This experience showed me how easily disinformation can be spread. Fortunately, I didn’t share my thoughts on social media, so the damage was contained. But this is a prime example of a requirement necessary to comment, debate, or offer an opinion that should be given but obviously not: Read the story.



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