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Falling for Clickbait a Slippery Slope

Robert Davis, Editor in Chief

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Clickbait plagues online journalism and the internet as a whole. Clickbait is the writing of titillating titles meant to incite emotion or curiosity so people click on articles that are often of little substance. This is not to say clickbait will be the death of online journalism, but it is a growing problem.

A prime example of a website fueled by clickbait is Buzzfeed, a website with headlines like “Only People Who Graduated With A 4.0 Can Get 15/20 On This Quiz.”

Articles like this have no substance, are lazy — and are being rewarded with clicks. This is just partially the fault of Buzzfeed, though. They are just doing what earns them money. The problem is when we fall for these titles and click on them, more money is rewarding low effort and low-substance journalism.

This is not to be mistaken as an attack on lighthearted articles that are meant to be fun or incite good feelings. This also is not to be mistaken as an attack on just Buzzfeed. They are harmless enough.   

The solution does not lie solely in the media, though. It lies in everyone. Viewers need to make sure they avoid articles with blatant clickbait titles. They also need to get news from multiple sources to ensure they are getting the whole truth.”

These articles are not destroying journalism, nor do they harm people. If you do not want to see these articles, they are avoidable. What they do, though, is set a precedent. They show that “exciting headlines” alone make money.

The danger is if this approach spreads to important sources of journalism. If journalistic companies bend the truth so they can have more exciting headlines, thus bringing in more revenue, this affects real people possibly in very negative ways.

Journalism should educate the public or cause the public to think, not just bring in revenue to fulfill a quota. The second clickbait becomes the common form of journalism, that is the death of journalism. That is the danger of clickbait.

Now this is not a doomsday prophecy, just a possible outcome if real journalism becomes overcome with clickbait.

An example of this is the recent presidential election. The news was filled with articles exaggerating or taking what political candidates said out of context. This was done to earn more views. People like scandals.

Sensationalism often misrepresents the truth, which can lead to terrible results. Violence occurred when a man fired a rifle in a Washington pizza restaurant. Because of false news, he believed it was tied to a child abuse ring.

A local news outlet in Louisville reported: “Drug suspect tells police of plan to give pot to his six children for Christmas.” That was not entirely true. Louisville Metro police officer Lorin Byerly, present at the arrest, said the true story was the man said he was selling marijuana to buy his children Christmas presents.

Twisting the truth can have many effects. Byerly said this “could make him look like a horrible father. There’s also potential that CPS could interrogate him. Legally it would not affect what he is charged with.”

When news outlets use sensational approaches, it reflects on journalism as a whole. Byerly said, “It shows they don’t care about showing the truth. It gives journalism a bad reputation. Media making a spin on things makes it hard to know what to believe.”

The solution does not lie solely in the media, though. It lies in everyone. Viewers need to make sure they avoid articles with blatant clickbait titles. They also need to get news from multiple sources to ensure they are getting the whole truth.

If the viewers do this, it will prove that clickbait is not profitable and media will push for more fact-based headlines and articles. The power lies in the viewers. It is time to exercise that power.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The student news site of  Trinity High School
Falling for Clickbait a Slippery Slope