Misleading Headlines Damage Trustworthiness

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.

Media – Discover Your Power

Legislative, Executive and Judiciary were the three most significant pillars of democracy. However, even stronger than these three is the fourth pillar, i.e. Media. Today, when all the three of them are exhibiting operational distortion, the only hope of development of our country is the active and genuine performance of the fourth pillar – The Media.

Media is the body that has been assigned the task of keeping the public informed about the happenings around the world. Not only covering an incident, but also presenting the unmentioned details properly is what media is supposed to do. Unfortunately, the so-called Media in spite of performing its actual duty, nowadays, opts for making information spicy than factual.

On the basis of researches in Media education, we are taught how to disseminate knowledge in the society and keep it aware of various things happening around. The media professionals are expected to act as watchdogs of society, but do they really do what is expected from them. More than a passion, media jobs have become a way of hefty earning nowadays. Fabrication of news brings more audience than factual information about an event. Hence, the former is chosen.

Today is our 67th Independence Day and going through the history pages will reveal what an effective role media (mainly newspapers) played in rousing the feeling of patriotism within the then youth. That was the time when people never hesitated to believe the media and a time now when the public is fed up of the artificial presentation of facts. This may be the result of higher expectations that the mass always desired the media to fulfil. The public always wants to have strong support that could preserve the democracy in India. When other pillars of democracy i.e. legislative, executive and judiciary seemed to have role imbalance, the public had only the media to trust. But even that couldn’t remain unbiased.


The TV news channels and newspapers that stick to their honesty and loyalty towards the public, they ultimately fall prey to our corrupt system. It is quite a recent incident when Sudhir Choudhary, Zee News head was arrested along with his colleague Samir Ahluwalia, Zee Business head. The reason for this arrest was the alleged extortion from the Jindal group for not revealing the stories against the company that was related to their coal block allocation. This ‘Coalgate’ issue has again proved the inability of the media to do what it is actually assigned and required to do.

Media is that pillar of democracy which was always supposed to favour the public and show them the truth. Whether it is a political activity or a political decision-making, it is only media that could carve out the relevant route to making valid decisions so far as choosing a right representative for the government is concerned. Only the fear of being exposed can restrict the corrupt individuals in the system to continue their evil deeds. If media starts supporting them, they will rule without fear, which will ultimately not be in favour of the masses.

MEDIA – the fourth pillar of democracy should know that the medium which can force Britishers to leave India has the capability to fight out the foes within the system. Now when other pillars of democracy have become organically handicapped, the only hope is your honest dutifulness in this dark despair. Don’t underestimate your power. Discover it and transform the system. You and only you can do it.