Keepin’ it Real: A Sensational Approach

Posted on 29 January 2014 by admin

Writer Jake Hunn explores misleading headlines.



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“Local media misleads thousands by means of ambiguous word choice”. All too often I find myself confused by unclear and generalized wording of headlines written by local news outlets such as KSDK and StlToday. It is painfully obvious that such headlines are purposefully ambiguous to target certain types of readers and sometimes even achieve some sort of emotional response. The term used to describe such editorial persuasion in what should be objective reporting is sensationalism. Sensationalist reporting aims to over-hype a topic in order to increase the amount of potential readers.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the sensationalist methods seen in local news is that it works. It does not take much time spent on the Facebook page of KSDK to find a host of outraged St. Louisans making strong claims about a topic based solely off of a single post that provides virtually no facts about the topic itself. Instead local journalists choose ambiguous terminology and only hinting toward the topic. For example, KSDK reports on Facebook, “The contractor says it’s no big deal; some county officials say it could be a very big deal. Read about some problems in the new county crime lab.” Some questions that come to my mind about this post are: What is “it”? Why is or isn’t it a big deal? A headline should not include all the details about a story, but such ambiguity insults the reader’s intelligence in a shallow attempt to lure them with the bait of omitted details.

As an alternative, news outlets such as NPR and Associated Press tend to have less editorial bias in their reporting. Unlike the rhetoric infested writing of local media, such alternatives tend to get straight to facts letting readers form their own opinion.


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