Clickbait media sites such as Upworthy, Gawker and Buzzfeed are causing credible news sources to imitate their headline style. The lust for likes has news outlets torqueing stories to peak curiosity with an end-goal of getting clicked.
Clickbait headlines can be characterized by something that is so vague and kind of interesting that one simply must click to find out more. They typically end in a, “what happens next will restore your faith in humanity,” or even a, “only ’90s kids will understand.”
“This reporter wants to punch himself in the throat. You’ll never guess what happens next.”
While they do destroy the news feed of any Facebook page, these headlines are fine for entertainment sites like Buzzfeed. My problem is with clickbait headlines leaking into credible news sources.
On Oct. 6, the CBC released a story headlined: “Pot-smoking Mountie found dead.”
Ooooh, a pot-smoking Mountie? I’m intrigued.
This title misses the issue. Cpl. Ron Francis was a RCMP officer filmed smoking medical marijuana in his uniform. He was facing five criminal charges and then took his own life. What the headline didn’t tell you is that Cpl. Francis was suffering from PTSD.
We are taught in journalism that at the bare minimum (when writing a story) you should answer the Five W’s: who, what, when, where and why.
Why was Cpl. Francis smoking pot? Well shit apparently they forgot to mention that the RCMP has a shitty coping-with-PTSD system for their officers. That’s a huge issue. Missed. Right there in your face.
Fortunately the headline was changed and PTSD was mentioned in the article.
The Toronto Sun, Yahoo News, Canoe News and others were all guilty of this as well.
This is only one example of clickbait leaking into credible news outlets.
The Fiscal Times released a story headlined: “9 ISIS weapons that will shock you.” Oh sweet baby Jesus, why is this a real article? I was hoping I would never see an Islamic State story devolve into a clickbait photo list.
Journalists have the responsibility to tell balanced, accurate and fair news. They must dig for information and find the real issues. The thirst for “likes” and “shares” is diluting news and skewing stories. In the end, getting the truth, not views, is what actually blows minds.
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