How Not to Caption a Picture

—By referring to something that’s not in the picture. The art director at KSTP channel 5 in Minnesota taught me this when I was a kid (Hi, Chan!)

If you have a caption that says “Boy makes a big jump,” show a picture of a boy jumping. If you have a caption “Boy misses a big jump,” you still show a picture of a boy jumping! Whatever is in the picture should be what’s in the caption, regardless of what you say about what’s in the picture.

And it should be the first thing in the caption. The subject.

So here’s an example of a supposed professional getting the caption egregiously wrong. Here’s the picture:

Here’s the caption:

Suspect indicted in Sussex woman’s death, dismemberment

Does she look like a murderer to you? You don’t find out until you read the article that the suspect is a man in this thirties. This is a picture of the victim!

Why would the newspaper get it backwards and not show the bad guy? I suspect it has something to do with getting more people to look. Marketing. And you know what I say about marketing communications folks, right?

All marcom people are insane.

NB—The next day they got it right. Picture of a man, and the caption is “Suspect in woman’s murder, dismemberment was arrested for DUI in Virginia”