I remember learning about headlines in one of my journalism classes. My professor told me they needed to be attention-grabbing and interesting. The job of a headline is to pull your audience in to the rest of the story. You’re supposed to use keywords and phrases that drive emotion. When you read a headline, it should make you want to look at the full story. But in today’s society, the headline is as far as a lot of people get.
As I find different news articles on social media throughout the day, I like to look at the comment section. Sometimes I find educated opinions and logical questions, but more often than not I see people making assumptions and basing their opinion on what the headline says. It’s very obvious when this happens. Most of the time, it’s someone launching into a rant about how idiotic their opposing political party is or accusing the writer/news outlet/other readers of also being brainless idiots.
As a reporter, I’ve experienced this with my own stories. My column last week regarding the term fake news was a prime example. My headline “Fake news is a fake concept” definitely evoked emotion, but not in a positive way. By reading the comments, it was apparent a lot of readers took it the wrong way and didn’t understand the point I was trying to make. For that, I apologize if I didn’t make myself clear. I understand having a journalist trying to persuade you that fake news has been blown out of proportion would make anyone become skeptical. That’s just the world we live in these days. But it was also obvious who actually read the whole column and who simply read the headline.
How does reading the few words of a headline give you all the information you need to form an opinion about the subject? It shouldn’t and it doesn’t. When did our society stop caring so much about facts and decide that their opinion was more important than what is true?
I don’t deny that some headlines can be misleading or have a bias to them. But there are times when reading the story reveals why the headline was worded in that way and you realize your assumptions about the story based on the headline were wrong. I know there’s those darn clickbait-type headlines that we all love to hate, but there’s a reason that kind of stuff is popular. It works. People will actually click on those stories as opposed to a generic headline.
We need to stop the trend of forming opinions based on headlines and actually read and investigate stories and subjects before we start spouting “facts” and calling people nasty names. The more educated and fact-based our society becomes, the less “fake news” there will be.
Sheri Kotzum is a reporter for The Destin Log. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 315-4353.