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Make it stop! End click-bait headlines now

Updated 24 January 2014:
Got Chrome? Then check out Downworthy: a hyperbolic headline project.

The tweet showed up in one of my journalism groups.


Most were appalled.

Click-bait: a tweet, Facebook status or hyperlink written in such a provocative manner as to make clicking on it irresistible. Ethics be damned.

I used to reserve the term for misleading text — promise one thing, deliver another. Now I think of it as emotional manipulation.

Irony alert > this image showed up in my newsfeed yesterday:

XKCD gets it in one.

About that CNN tweet

To be fair to the person who wrote the tweet, the reporter led with something similar:

An 11-year-old Illinois girl was stabbed 40 times by her 14-year-old sister, police say, and the reason why has many in the small Chicago-area community of Mundelein reeling in disbelief.


The truth, when it emerged, was even more shocking.

The 14-year-old, authorities say, repeatedly and fatally stabbed the victim — her half sister — with a kitchen knife because the teen thought she was ungrateful.

Contrast that story with this from the Chicago Tribune (the local big-city paper in the case):

A 14-year-old girl grabbed a kitchen knife and barged into her 11-year-old sister’s bedroom and stabbed her repeatedly, yelling each time that she did not appreciate all that the older sister had done for her, prosecutors said in court today.

Viral Mills Have No SoulAnd in case you thought the 3 AM Thursday timestamp on the CNN story meant that this was breaking news (it was tweeted by the breaking news account), police arrived at the Chicago-area home about 8:30 AM on Tuesday.

Organizations will continue this behavior — writing click-bait headlines — until we (web folks) stop making it worth their while.

We get the media that matches our behavior.

Screen cap of the CNN tweet

CNN Tweet
The first retweet shown here says it all.

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

4 replies on “Make it stop! End click-bait headlines now”

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