Scary Headlines vs. Not-So-Scary Facts

Newspaper Extra Headline

As gun owners, we’ve seen many cases where headlines and teasers for news stories involving firearms or perceived threats are played up in order to attract more eyeballs to a story or viewers to a newscast. It’s not something new to us.

But, a couple of recent observations have made me wonder if this is actually going to get worse across all issues and news outlets in order to compete for traffic and the possibility of going viral.

One great example of this is @HuffPoSpoilers. The description lays out the exact point of the account: “I give in to @HuffingtonPost click-bait so you don’t have to.” I follow because I think it’s pretty funny most of the time. But reading the original HuffPo teasers and headlines has really floored me about just how much of a stretch they take to make the most mundane sound interesting in order to get people clicking on their site.

The reason I wonder if this effort to stretch relatively run-of-the-mill stories into even more over-the-top headlines came from an incident today from one of our local news outlets. This is the headline: “Arrest Warrant Issued For Alleged Wedding Crasher

Now, if you’re like me and have actually crashed a wedding, this gets attention. Is this a case of insane prosecution? Do we have a new breed of Bridezilla that would actually file charges against that person who stumbled onto her dance floor and maybe had an appetizer or drink? My wedding crashing story involves no eating or drinking on the wedding party’s tab. However, my friend did end up in some reception photos. Still, as a person who has technically met the definition of crashing a wedding, this gets my attention.

It turns out that the story gets far less titillating in the second paragraph where we find out a closer version to the events: “…he allegedly crashed a local wedding reception and stole thousands of dollars worth of wedding gifts.” By the third and fourth paragraphs, we find it’s more accurately described as a man who simply broke into a car visibly stuffed with valuables. Somehow, the story of a pretty typical car break-in becomes a headline about arresting a wedding crasher.

I guess the reason I bring this up here is because I think it’s an interesting phenomenon to address as news viewers/readers. I think as gun owners, we’ve actually already been through the worst of it. Even when we still see bias in the media, it tends to be less over-the-top than in the 90s or earlier. I suspect part of that is because gun owners have managed to jump all over the really inaccurate stories and writers. The fact is that many reporters don’t want the hassle of many gun owners correcting their stories, so they’ll tone down the tendency to exaggerate claims. But does this trend to making other news even more overly sensational than it was before signal that maybe we’re headed back down that path? What do you guys and gals think?

7 thoughts on “Scary Headlines vs. Not-So-Scary Facts”

  1. I think that they are competing with better, more distributed new sources. They need viewers, because viewers are money. Unfortunately for them I think it is backfiring and is contributing to people leaving to find more accurate news elsewhere.

  2. It isn’t limited to the internet. After the Illinois General Assembly overrode Gov. Jello’s amendatory veto of the concealed carry bill, NBC Channel 5 out of Chicago (gasp!) ran the story on their 6:00 newscast that !!CONCEALED CARRY IN ILLINOIS BEGINS AT MIDNIGHT TONIGHT!!!

    Now, what was the cause of this obviously wrong information? Was it a lazy reporter, whose LAYERS of editorial oversight didn’t read the law or understand what the override meant? Was it this kind of sensationalism to gin up viewers? Was it typical media-anti-rights hysteria?

      1. Ah yes, I forgot that potential angle: Let’s see how many gun nuts we can get arrested!

        FWIW, there are several downstate counties where the DAs came out and publicly stated they will NOT enforce the old law at all. If you have a FOID card and are not misbehaving, carry away. The State Police had to issue a statement saying they WILL enforce the law. A true Banana Republic, brought to you by Madigan, Cullerton, and Quinn.

  3. I think this post should have been titled “Warrant May Soon Be Issued for Sebastian”. Hey, it’s just as accurate as any HuffPo headline, right?

    1. Unlike them, I’m not going to contribute to the race to the bottom. That said, I hope a warrant issued for him since I’m the one who “crashed” a wedding sorta on accident.

  4. It’s tamer now for us precisely because of Internet comment sections. When they pull that —-, we’re on them like white on rice inside of three minutes.

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