Skimming The Headlines

Ben Goldacre combines a misleading Daily Mail story on breast cancer (which has a major caveat in paragraph 19) with research on how we read newspapers:

[B]y the time you get to a story length of 8 to 11 paragraphs, on average, your readers read only half the story. A minority will make it to paragraph number 19, where, on this occasion, a fraction of the readers of the Daily Mail would have discovered that the central premise of the news story – that a new trial had found a 40% reduction in cancer through intermittent dieting – was false.

Caveats in paragraph 19 are common. This evidence strongly suggests that they are also a sop: they permit a defense against criticism, through the strictest, most rigorous analysis of a piece. But if your interest is informing a reader, they are plainly misleading.