Sensational News Headlines


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Maybe it is me, but some news headlines just seem to be there to attract our attention and the stories they frame are just such garbage. Could it be the way the headlines are presented that is the problem? I would expect this from a tabloid, but when you begin to see these types of headlines in mainline newspapers and websites, it makes you feel that the quality of the news has really come down. One story I just read has a headline that reads, “Bronx man suing city after medics throw his ear in the garbage”. Granted this is a legitimate story, but the presentation leaves a lot to be desired. If I were writing the story for a respected newspaper, I probably would have wrote, “Bronx man sues city over medics incompetence”, or something like that. It just seems that the way it was written is distasteful and maybe even a bit disturbing, especially for children.

One news headline on a famous tv channel stated, “Haircuts that KILL”, with kill in capital letters. Do they really think that they are revealing news stories with this junk, or trying to get more viewers? Cable shows are really hurting the old traditional channels like 2,4, 5,7 etc. In the rush for the traditional commercial channels to survive, they have decided that anything that allows them to get more viewers is okay. Maybe they have a point? I am not talking about the point that anything should be allowed, but I am talking about the fact that they are bound by things like censorship, while the cable stations can put on anything they want, even graphic nudity. What does this leave these guy who have to even cut parts out of movies before showing them? I am not saying that I think that censorship should be eliminated, some could say it should be stricter for the cable stations, but I am not saying that either. I am just saying that sensationalism doesn’t seem to be a way to get a larger permanent audience. It is akin to developing a weapon that could devastate the world. What good is this weapon if everyone has it?


Photo Source: Stock.xching

A Chinese run website called the Global Times has been calling on Internet sites to stop running what they call, sensational and raunchy headlines on stories. The problem with this however, is that the Global Times is a government run operation and probably doesn’t speak for the average person. Anyway here is what they say, "A good headline should give readers an impression of the story. It should be concise, informative and entertaining; while a bad headline might mislead the readers and public opinion," Why do we have to say things like, “Headless body found in topless bar”? This was an actual headline, by the way. You have to admit that while being a little funny, it it very crude and I am sure the family of this poor guy didn’t appreciate it. A representative for the Global Times states that he only reads his news off the Internet and admits that news with bizarre headlines is likely to get read.

Sometimes headlines that look sensational really aren’t. One example of this are headlines that appear in specific trade journals. Here is one that appeared in Bio-Medicine, “Doctor Training Undermined In Britain Due To Shortage Of Cadavers”. If this headline would have appeared in a daily or weekly paper, such as a tabloid, I doubt that the headline would even have been changed, since it is so sensational to start with, but when we see that it was in a medical journal, then our perception of the headline has to change. It is just alerting the medical community of a problem. This is quite different than trying to tittillate the public and getting them to read the article. I know that some people will say that the titles of articles that I use, sometimes seem sensational. To this I have to reply that I am not a news organization and since this is the case, I have a lot more latitude in the titles that I pick, but having said this I don’t think that you will find too many sensational article titles on About Facts Net.


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One newspaper had a headline that stated, “ See who is being held in local county jails”. It is an online newspaper and I followed the link on the title and there it was, a list of inmates, along with their photos and charges. I found this quite unusual. Maybe calling this sensationalism is wrong, but it did have that kind of feel, but it is handy knowing which one of your neighbors to avoid.

Here is a particularly gross sensational headline, “Obese man dies fused to recliner”. Apparently as sad as this sounds, the guy had stayed in that chair for 8 months and had to be cut out. I can’t help but feeling that this was a little too much information in the headline and that this info could have been put into the main body of the story. I think that maybe a headline like, “Man dies in apartment.” would have been a little more sensitive and the article could have talked about how he was overweight and stuck to the chair, if necessary. Am I being too sensitive, maybe, but in the old days the headlines would have been tamer without spilling the gory details in the title, even though they might appear in the accompanying text.

Here is a strange type of headline, “Senseless Murder/Sensible Gun Laws/Sensational Headlines”. It is sensational, yet it is multi faceted. It even refers to sensational headlines. I would say this headline has every bad point all rolled up into one headline. Why do companies that run newspapers like to use sensational headlines, rather than more bland ones? It is because there have seen studies that claim that sensational headlines attract more attention and therefore sell more newspapers, but as the paper repeats sensational headline after sensational headline, the effect wears off. We become desensitized. In the past when they have run a sensational headline, they may have also noticed that they sold more copies of a paper. Looking at how things are going for newspapers today we have to conclude that no amount of sensational headlines are going to save them. They are all losing readers thanks to the Internet.

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