Headlines say it all (or not) about amore in Italy

Different newspapers have drastically different ideas about what is appropriate for publication. This goes double for headlines, which are the most visible and most-read part of the paper. Here's a good example from this morning's papers. The headlines have the same idea and even some of the same words, but one key difference:

From the New York Times:

After Reports of a Liaison, Italy’s Leader Says, ‘I’m Not a Saint’

From The Guardian (an excellent British paper):

I'm no saint, Silvio Berlusconi admits in wake of sex tape allegations

The Guardian headline tells you a lot more than the coy New York Times, although in this case it is slightly misleading, since the tape in question is an audio recording, not video. Still, I'm in favor of giving the reader as much direct information as possible in a headline.

I would have gone with:

I'm no saint, Italy's leader says after prostitution allegations

That's the real gist of the allegations, which center on an audio tape that is said to be of Berlusconi talking with a prostitute in a hotel room.

Speaking of differences, another interesting thing from the stories is how the public and the accused politician react to reports of affairs compared with the U.S. Berlusconi's supposed dalliances were first revealed when his wife (who says she's divorcing him) wrote an open letter to newspapers about them. In the U.S., cheating political husbands usually have tearful news conferences with their wives at their sides. In Italy, it seems, they say things like:

  • "I'm no saint, by now you've figured that out," a smiling Berlusconi said.
  • The 72-year-old leader also noted that "there are a lot of nice-looking girls around".
  • Berlusconi has denied paying for sex, and has called the allegations "trash". (He denies that a man such as himself must pay for extramarital sex, you see.)