[All my comments are about online content.]
Today I saw a headline that immediately grabbed my attention. I am sure it was designed to do so. That is why multiple media outlets [Fox News, AP, Reuters, ABC, NBC, yahoo!, Huffington Post and others] used the exact same headline. The headline read:
Prosecutor in Army sex case wanted charges dropped
So what does this mean? My mind is racing. Does the entire Army have a sex case? [Which would have personal impact that I am completely unaware of]. If not, how does the casual reader know this? Does this mean that the Army is not listening to it’s JAG Prosecutors? So many questions. This headline is misleading on most accounts though. Well, that is a personal opinion; you can judge for yourself here:
The use of past tense wanted is incorrect as well. The noun [Prosecutor] in the headline still wants the charges dropped. But there is an adjective missing to describe the noun. That adjective is former because he has been replaced.
I realize that headlines are supposed to grab the reader’s attention. But these days, they just seem to sensationalize. The most common tactic is to present half a headline that makes the reader seek out the rest of the article.
I realize this is because any and every website is governed by how many people click on to their website. I am both a realist and a capitalist. The websites are trying to draw in more readers. Get more clicks. Get more revenue by charging more for ads. That is the only way they can make money. Well, unless they solicit donations like Wikipedia.
Moreover; when every media outlet uses the same headline none stick out. They should strive to be unique. And these days; the most unique way to draw in readers would be to be accurate.
Where is the media’s responsibility to be accurate? Because using the parameters of being clear and concise; even I could write a better headline. Mine would be:
Former Prosecutor sought charges dropped in BG Sinclair assault case
It is clear. It is concise although I did add two words to the total count. It is factually accurate. Isn’t that the purpose of a headline?
News media outlets would benefit from being unique these days. And being precise is so rare these days. They need to win, so win the right way!