Oftentimes, I criticize the media for its outlandish reporting of current events. I saw a report just a moment ago worthy of more criticism. I don’t typically update my blog in such a reactionary manner, but I decided to stop what I was doing and prepare this right now.
I was scanning online articles and something caught my eye. The headline read: “Teen Stunned By ‘Citation’ Cop” and my first thought was, “Here we go again. Another rogue cop used a stun gun on a teenager.” With all the attention being given to out-of-control police officers of late, I don’t think that was an unusual conclusion for me to draw.
Okay, so I click on the headline, already angry because of what I was about to read, and it turned out to be something completely different. In this instance, the word “stunned” was being use synonymously with the word “surprised” and referred to a good deed performed by the officer. In fact, the actual article had a different title than the teaser that caused me to click into it. The officer, who was friends with the teen’s mom, briefly detained the girl and passed along tickets to see Ariana Grande in concert: a gift from the girl’s mom.
That’s what I mean by “What’s good is also bad” because as good and useful as news media can be, it can also create needless havoc and hysteria. This is precisely why the media often gets labeled sensationalistic. That article is sensationalism at its best. This is not the first time something like that has happened to me. I have seen many online articles with titles that were misleading, lacked clarity, or perhaps were even purposely deceptive. Creating an effective title is one of the most important rules in journalism. To create an effective title, the author should make sure the title is complete, accurate, and clear, as it’s the contract with the reader. You’re not supposed to use gimmicks to trick people into reading. That’s unethical. That’s irresponsible journalism. I realize it’s all about numbers. They want to get their story to as many people as they can, first. I get that. But, what’s the point of being first if you have to go behind yourself and make a correction. We’ve all seen the Tweets. The wrong and ambiguous Tweets will get re-Tweeted 1000 times but subsequent Tweet correcting the error will get very little attention.
So, that teen was stunned alright, to say the least, and the author used a very clever ploy to lure me (and probably hundreds of other people too) into clicking the article. Barnum said there’s a sucker born every minute, but I never thought I’d be one of them. (That last sentence was slightly embellished from The Wiz. Remember that line, from a conversation between the Tin Man and the Scarecrow?)