The responsibility of making a report attention-grabbing rests hugely on the headline that is used to define it. With the increasing competition in the media industry, every media outlet wishes to attract more and more audiences to its brand. In a rush to get the focus of news-hungry population, media organisations try to make their headlines as appealing as possible. In doing so, they sometimes do not even realise violating media ethics.
Media has become the fourth pillar of democracy with which it shouldered a responsibility to protect and retain the nation’s democratic spirit. According to a recent report, around 48 percent people have found media using misleading headlines. Whether it’s broadcast or print or online media, the issues with headlines are very common. The motive of news networks is to be accurate with facts and figures to make sure public receives correct information.
Headlines must be catchy but it does not mean it should mislead readers or audiences. Recently, CNN published an article “Ebola in the air? A nightmare that could happen.” The headline indicated that the disease might not only be confined to its spread via bodily fluids but also through cough or sneeze in the near future. However, the researchers in the original article suggested that it was all just a speculation and Ebola is not expected to change its mode of transmission yet. This shows how a reputed news network misled public.
The media outlet would have thought that the headline will compel audiences to go through the article out of fear. What they predicted was true for sure as the headline had that ‘clickbait’ element. But does that not violate the media ethics the reporters are expected to follow. Of course, they do. A headline is what defines a story. Hence, it must say what the story is all about. Hence, while deciding on a headline, a media outlet should only think about the news details rather than the number of audiences it would attract.
Public buys a newspaper, watches a news channel or browses through a news website with a trust of not being cheated. Reading a headline and finding an unrelated story is enough to stain a media brand’s image. Remember, audiences never forget being cheated or misled.
If the media industry has forgotten, misleading public with unrelated headlines and manipulating facts and figures for the sake of generating traffic for your news network falls under “yellow journalism.”
It takes the time to build an image but not even a second to damage it. So they must focus on their duties and responsibilities rather their newspapers’, websites’ and channels’ TRPs and traffic.