An insidious and patronizing trend in journalism

This is a “get off my lawn” post, but indulge me. I first noticed this trend in my journalistic bête noire, HuffPost.  That place has a lot of articles with headlines like “X happened. Why that matters.” Or “I am X. . . here’s why”. Or “So you want to do X? Here’s how.”

To show you what I’m talking about, here are some examples, first from the HuffPost, then the New York Times, then one I found in the Boston Globe, where the rot has apparently spread. The first two side-by-side headlines are from today’s front page of the HuffPost:

And from recent pages of the New York Times, the first one just today:

And one from the Boston Globe:

Salon is at it too, of course:

I don’t like this kind of phrasing for several reasons. First, it’s patronizing, often telling us why we should care or how we should feel or react. It’s okay if a paper summarizes the salient points of a news issue, but why can’t they say, for example, “The importance of President Trump’s Ukrainian scheme”? The news isn’t supposed to prompt a reaction in us; it’s supposed to tell us the news.

As for the more personal stuff, emotional reactions shouldn’t be prompted by a headline, but spontaneously felt after reading the story. Further, you can always eliminate the “here’s”, as in the headline “Here’s why it’s so hard to unpack after a trip.” The first word is superfluous. Nearly all these headlines could be written without the “I’m gonna tell you why” slant.

This style of headline seems to impugn the reader’s intelligence, making one feel that the papers are trying to spell out for the benighted why they should care about an issue or a story.

If I wanted to float a hypothesis, which is mine, it would be that this does indeed reflect the dumbing down of journalism. People who read news are getting increasingly older, while many younger people may have a shorter attention span and will gravitate to articles that purport to tell them the highlights of an issue right in the headline, or lure them to read by saying “why X matters.” In fact, “why X matters” is a form of clickbait.

Keep your eye peeled for further headlines like this. They’ve been a staple of dumbed-down Leftist journalism like HuffPost for a while, but now the termites are dining deeper, into the wood pulp of more respectable liberal venues.

 

102 Comments

  1. keith
    Posted November 25, 2019 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    I’ve noticed this as well. It’s a form of clickbait, but it works on me. As long as such articles are labeled “opinion” or “analysis”, I don’t mind. The primary emotion it’s acceptable for a headline to pique is curiosity, and headlines like these do so.

  2. Posted November 25, 2019 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    I’ve also been annoyed by this. Each time I see it I make a mental note to remember it for one of these get off my lawn posts, and then can’t remember it when the time comes.

    It assumes a common mentality, mindset, set of emotional reactions, and cultural background (and a rather twee one at that). It is not inclusive, and it excludes and disrespects all those who don’t agree with the writer’s viewpoint.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 26, 2019 at 7:33 am | Permalink

      it excludes and disrespects all those who don’t agree with the writer’s viewpoint.

      Isn’t that rather the point of “opinion” pieces”? As long as the writer and (some of the) readers agree sufficiently for enough eyeball-seconds of advertising sales to register, then the publisher will remain happy.
      Which is, of course, why advert blockers are so unpopular with for-profit publishers and have been since at least the Internet Junkbuster of about 1996.
      I can’t remember the last time I deliberately clicked on a HuffPo link.

  3. Posted November 25, 2019 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    YES! Spot on as so often. Youngsters get their – ahem – ‘news’ – from ‘social media’ (why they are called that when they are so unsocial I have no idea). They do not listen to the radio, they do not watch TV, they look at Feaces Book & to a lesser extent Twitter, & also Instagram & who knows what else, & have no idea if what they are seeing is true or not because they do not understand truth. They are woefully ignorant.

    “OK Boomer”
    🙂

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted November 25, 2019 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      Incidentally: I think “Boomer” is used because it is a name (if only a nickname). Example : Boomer Eliason (?) -don’t ask me how I know that.

      • Posted November 25, 2019 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

        I thought it was short for “baby boomer”.

        BTW, it’s Boomer Esiason, a former quarterback that is now a TV sports analyst.

        • ThyroidPlanet
          Posted November 25, 2019 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

          Yes, that’s the basic function, but I was pointing to how it works – because it also sounds like it’s referring to a real person. Akin to “Jack” or “Bub”, perhaps. In this case, it has a different flavor – “Boomer” having perhaps a silly, or dismissive/patronizing effect.

          • Posted November 25, 2019 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

            Ah, right. I agree. Kind of like “Bonzo”. A name one would more likely give to a pet than a child.

            • ThyroidPlanet
              Posted November 25, 2019 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

              Ha, great example!… except for me, I reserve Bonzo for John Bonham…. because I think he acquired that nickname.

              • Posted November 25, 2019 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

                And there’s the Bonzo Dog Band, one of my favs.

              • JP415
                Posted November 25, 2019 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

                I was thinking of the classic film Bedtime for Bonzo, starring the noted thespian Ronald Reagan.

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted November 26, 2019 at 7:46 am | Permalink

                (Reply to Paul Topping
                “And there’s the Bonzo Dog Band”, because this form of WordPress can’t go more than 7 replies deep.)
                For some reason, I always associate the Bonzos with Anne Nightingale’s Sunday afternoon programme. Probably because it was the only place I heard them, apart from the screeching (… I almost forgot Kenny Everett’s name. Damn, I’ll forget him one day.) There is a trademark dispute between the Bonzo’s former manager (who controls the trademark name) and the crumbling remains of the band, which means they use not-quite-the-trademarked-name names these days. See! Hear!

            • Saul Sorrell-Till
              Posted November 27, 2019 at 6:22 am | Permalink

              FYI Paul, my dad was a very close friend of Viv Stanshall.

              I met the guy a fair few times when I was little, around seven or eight – one memorable time we all went to a fair on a nearby heath(might have been Hampstead Heath) and Viv and I apparently went into the hall of mirrors and came out laughing like lunatics.

              I remember he was in a pretty messed-up place, his flat I mean(although the state of one’s abode does tend to reflect the state of one’s mind). There were birds everywhere, some in cages, some flying around and shitting all over the shop, and Viv, in preparing to go out, asked me which of his lurid purple/pink tanga underpants he should wear.

              Probably a misstep on my dad’s part to take me there, but he didn’t run after us with an axe, so it was a qualified success.

              I grew up with Sir Henry at Rawlinson End on repeat at my dad’s house so I’ve heard a lot of stories about Viv.

  4. Ken Pidcock
    Posted November 25, 2019 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Hear, hear. A venue you didn’t mention, but which I think is one of the worst for this, is Vox.

  5. Posted November 25, 2019 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    We can call it Boomer Bingo! Spotting articles for dimwitted snowflakes before they melt…
    😉

    https://www.mic.com/articles/157558/here-s-what-the-electoral-college-map-would-look-like-if-only-millennials-voted

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted November 27, 2019 at 6:31 am | Permalink

      Of course, a rather inconvenient fact for this idea that millennials are all thick as pigshit dumbos is that IQ levels rise generation upon generation, which suggests that we’re not quite as moronic as this comment section would largely have you believe.

      I mean…since the invention of civilisation older people have been complaining about younger people. And every time someone points this fact out, that particular generation of older people maintains that it REALLY IS true this time, young people really are going to ruin everything.

      And yet…civilisation has somehow managed to improve, gradually but undeniably, over hundreds, even thousands of years, in spite of every generation of young people being a massive disappointment to their elders. Strange no?

  6. DrBrydon
    Posted November 25, 2019 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    They are telling people ‘this is what you should think, and if you don’t, then you are missing the point.’ It’s the continual slide of news reporting into propaganda.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 26, 2019 at 7:48 am | Permalink

      NewSpeak is more succinct (as is part of it;s intention) : you become an unperson.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted November 27, 2019 at 6:46 am | Permalink

      I have two rather large problems with the thesis of this article:

      Firstly: ARE young people overwhelmingly more likely to get their information from biased, dumbed-down sources?
      I mean…Fox News exists almost solely to feed rubbish into the ears of people over the age of fifty, and routinely I see and hear Brexiteers and Trumpites, the majority of whom are older citizens, passing around the most utterly unhinged conspiracy theories and linking to websites with titles like PATRIOT NEWS, and channels with hosts that make Alex Jones look like Terry Wogan. The ONLY people I personally know who share conspiracy theories are, without exception, Brexiteers over the age of fifty.

      Secondly: the idea that this is somehow a problem with the left-wing, liberal media above all. I would dispute this – these kinds of titles are used everywhere that clickbait prevails.
      The kind of websites and YT channels that use these kind of ‘Here’s Why…’ headlines are not ‘left-wing’ or ‘liberal’ – they are ‘clickbait’. I’ve seen them used all the time online by anti-SJW right-wingers to tout their latest example of left-wing stupidity and get eyeballs.
      It’s part of the SEO shorthand that influencers and article writers and editors now presumably get taught in order to reel in those clicks.

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 25, 2019 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    I think this phraseology is used to signify the type of piece that’s come to be known as an “explainer” (in contradistinction to the standard journalistic dichotomy between “news” and “opinion”).

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted November 25, 2019 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      Thanks for this article but I find it highly ironic that it takes an explainer article to explain what “explainer journalism is.” No way to get around it.

      It is an unfortunate trend.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted November 26, 2019 at 7:49 am | Permalink

        Seat yourself on this infinitely-deep stack of turtles.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted November 25, 2019 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      Oh No – Blecchhh!

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted November 25, 2019 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      I think part of what’s going on underneath this is the modern construal of “research” – which usually is not genuine peer reviewed research or looking up articles for a course assignment, but merely web-surfing and diving down rabbit holes on Wikipedia and reproducing the material somehow, somewhere.

    • Posted November 25, 2019 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      Yes, that makes sense. It’s the MSM’s way to keep readers and viewers from having to go to Wikipedia for an explainer. MSM is always afraid of losing eyeballs and seeking ways to make their media “sticky”.

    • Posted November 25, 2019 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      A fairly obvious joke to play here is to comment: The news media frequently uses this phrase and here’s why…;)

    • Filippo
      Posted November 25, 2019 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

      Hence the NY Times’s penchant for labeling certain reporting “news analysis.” I’m also reminded of the use of the term “the takeaway.” A couple of Democratic debates ago, IIRC, several NY Times reporters posted on the Times’s website ongoing commentary (“News analysis”? Or opinion?) on the debate. (The “takeaway,” I suppose.)I wonder who they expect to read their real-time postings? Surely not the rational, thoughtful someone actively watching the debate, and who can make up their own mind, Thank-you, on what the “takeaway” is. Perhaps someone who can’t stand to watch and hear the ululations of the digital demigod-worshiping Whoop-and-Holler crowd in attendance? Give me the Kennedy-Nixon debates format any day.

  8. rickflick
    Posted November 25, 2019 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    These titles are like promises to explain and provide answers to life’s overwhelming or pesky little problems. A curious reader wants to know…why oh why is our president a psychopath and does my nose itch when I sneeze.
    Similar clickbait you see especially on the covers of mags at the checkout counter in grocery stores is, 6 Ways to keep your Marriage Exciting without a lot of Effort in the Kitchen, and 9 Tried and True Methods of making your Kids eat Vegetables without Resorting to a Blender and Funnel. Exact integers like 6 and 9 give the impression that the research has been done and all I have to do is read about it to get up on the unfairness of life.

    • GBJames
      Posted November 25, 2019 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      Headlines like this annoy the hell out of me, too. Here’s why….

      (Sorry.. I’ll go now.)

      • rickflick
        Posted November 25, 2019 at 11:55 am | Permalink

        Come back after you’ve purified your soul. 😁

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted November 27, 2019 at 6:48 am | Permalink

        The Netflix comedy show Big Mouth came up with the parody headline ‘You Won’t Believe How Fat These Six Civil Rights’ Activists Got’.

  9. Randall Schenck
    Posted November 25, 2019 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    But isn’t most of this stuff editorial or opinion section stuff? Like going to facebook for the news, this is not where first class journalism lives or what is left of it. We must acknowledge that most investigative news journalism does not come from these parts of the papers. Also, a large part of the important political stories we get comes from the investigative journalist of Post, the Times, the UP/AP and a few other remaining papers out there. I notice most of the stories I see on 60 minutes do not tell us how or what to think. Most of the stories seen on Frontline don’t go that way either.

    The liberal press is far from perfect but they do not seem to be creating a whole new version of reality created by the far right or our current administration.

  10. Richard Sanderson🤴
    Posted November 25, 2019 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    The Guardian starting doing this 2-3 years ago.

    Naturally, the “here’s how” turns out to be unworkable or bonkers crazy.

  11. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted November 25, 2019 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Good gracious, I thought I was the only one who despises that!

  12. Posted November 25, 2019 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    While I’m not going to advocate for HuffPo, I don’t see these titles as so problematic. Unlike most of the readers here, many (perhaps most) people really don’t engage with subjects. I think these titles are intended to draw people in that are looking for a summary of a given issue with a “Here’s what you need to know” angle.

    It is also an implicit promise that the writer doesn’t have an axe to grind. The author will try (or pretend to try) to give an elementary presentation that will also tell the reader why any of it should matter to them.

    Trump supporters might particularly benefit from this kind of article. (I’m not talking about the ones that go to his rallies as they are lost to us.) If they have any doubt that they are not hearing the whole story from their echo chamber, or don’t think the MSM is completely biased against their guy, they might gain a new perspective from a “here’s why it matters” article that tells them it is not all partisan bickering and that it isn’t a “both sides are equally guilty” situation.

    • Posted November 25, 2019 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      I should also mention that this kind of title serves as an efficient warning to those that already know its subject and why it matters. This is even more valuable to us opinionated know-it-alls. LOL

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted November 25, 2019 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      But aren’t you really talking about pundits. There are herds of them on the right and the left out there and they also do a lot of opinion or editorials that show up in newspapers and rags of all kinds. They are the talking heads you see all over FOX and CNN throughout the day. They tell you what to think, how to think and interpret every little thing for you.

      Years ago when CNN decided to join the herd and go with pundits because they no long could afford to keep actual news bureaus all over the world and report on real world news. This greatly degraded CNN and this took place about the same time good newspapers begin to die all over the country.

      • Posted November 25, 2019 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        I certainly agree with your point about CNN’s move to pundits. While I appreciate many of their comments, information density is terribly low. Each hour brings a new “host” and they repeat the same news but with a different set of pundits that say much the same as those in the last hour.

        I was thinking “Why that matters” articles are explainers, as another commenter mentioned. They are not supposed to be opinion pieces. Of course, every piece inherently reflects the opinion of its author.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted November 25, 2019 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

          Another point I will put out is – everyone loves a free press. By that I mean, no one wants to pay. This is another reason all the newspapers have either gone down the toilet or at minimum, lost most of their real journalist. All the newspaper’s news was picked up for free on line and that was the beginning of the end for good newspapers. Most of them were sold or folded. Funny how we love to complain about free. But surprisingly, quality comes at a price and few are willing to pay for it. What we should have been doing locally or regionally is taxing the citizens to maintain good news. But hey, who is willing to vote for that.

          • Posted November 25, 2019 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

            Yes, I miss the days when newspapers and TV news were considered authorities because they were the only mass sources and had an ethical commitment to journalistic integrity. I can hear the crowd saying “Oh Boomer, just get over it.” Still, what we have now is a mess.

            • JP415
              Posted November 25, 2019 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

              Newspapers are also more pleasant to read because you can you just look at the text and not be distracted by blinking banner ads, hyperlinks, video clips, and what not. I made the mistake of looking at the website for the San Francisco Chronicle recently and my senses were besieged by advertisements. It’s like trying to watch a movie while people in the row ahead of you are jumping around and waving their hands in the air. For any kind of serious reading, print still works best.

              • Randall Schenck
                Posted November 25, 2019 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

                Also, if you pay for a good newspaper, such as the Washington Post, you don’t have to put up with so much of that pop up constant advertising. I notice too on the ones I can click on for free, they are full of that stuff.

              • JP415
                Posted November 25, 2019 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

                Yeah, I guess it’s just better to bite the bullet and subscribe. Free papers aren’t really worth it. Ironically, some of them have so many ads that they render the website unreadable and thereby lower its value. Also, at a certain point, the ads become useless because they all compete with each other and merge into a sea of background noise.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted November 26, 2019 at 6:40 am | Permalink

                Free papers are very useful, I keep a stack of ’em. For spreading out when I want to disassemble some part of my car, for masking when I’m spray-painting something, for wiping dirt and oil off things, for wrapping rubbish. If the nice people didn’t keep supplying them for free, I’d actually have to buy paper for these uses.

                The only thing I don’t do with them is read them, ever. 😉

                cr

  13. Mike Anderson
    Posted November 25, 2019 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    I suspect this has become popular because it works (gets clicks). Internet publishing supports a precise analytics (click counting, etc.) that isn’t possible with other kinds of publishing, and we will probably be surprised/annoyed at what becomes popular.

    The other issue is volume: publishers have so much “space” to fill the quality of what is published is bound to decrease. As the noise level increases people need to develop better ways of filtering the noise. The noise vs. filter battle is yet another arms race. Most people will be a step or 2 on the losing side of that arms race.

    • JP415
      Posted November 25, 2019 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      Unfortunately, a lot of web analytics programs (as far I know) just count clicks and don’t measure whether anyone read the article all the way through. In my case, I often click on a provocative headline, immediately regret it, and move on to something more worthwhile.

      • rickflick
        Posted November 25, 2019 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

        They probably think of you as a deadbeat clicker. Welcome to the club.

      • Mike Anderson
        Posted November 25, 2019 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        The metric important to publishers is what leads to clicks on ads, and I suspect that is well analyzed.

      • Posted November 25, 2019 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

        I think web analytics often measures the length of time content is shown before the user navigates elsewhere. Obviously a long value for this doesn’t mean the user read much of it.

        For longer content, requiring the user scroll down to read the entire article, it should be possible for the page creator to use a custom analytics event to register when the reader does so. I don’t know if websites actually do this.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted November 26, 2019 at 8:23 am | Permalink

          it should be possible for the page creator to use a custom analytics event to register when the reader does so. I don’t know if websites actually do this.

          There is a definite difference between a user clicking on an object within a displayed page (which is a definite interaction between the user and the content), and a user activating the scroll button on their interface device (mouse wheel, or swipe, depending on UI hardware). That is why, to the depth that I went into programming, the OS presented different messages for the different events such as MOUSE_L_BUTTON_DOWN (and UP, and M and R variants) compared to DISPLAY_SCROLL_UP (DOWN) messages. It’s then up to the browser to choose whether or not to pass the message onto the web server, or whether to act on the message themselves.
          Which is why (1) advert sales people get very upset about each new version of a browser that is released, since they need to look at this week’s new crop of developer choices, and (2) web page bloat is bad, getting worse, and unlikely to slow down in getting worse.
          Web developers would love to know what version of a browser is being used – which is a very good reason to prevent them from knowing that. If their page needs a facility, let them test for it.

          • Posted November 26, 2019 at 10:30 am | Permalink

            Actually, the problem with different web browser versions has largely gone away, at least for most content. Modern browsers have embraced standards across the board. For example, Microsoft dropped its Internet Explorer browser, replacing it with their standards-compliant Edge browser and now they’ve even gone over to using the Chrome browser engine. There are always cutting-edge standards that are unevenly implemented but they are pretty esoteric these days and don’t affect most content. Even with those, the browser makers are very much trying to stay in sync. There are also many automated testing services that help make sure things work properly. Finally, making a modern browser is now such a humongous endeavor that even big companies like Microsoft have abandoned it. There are lots of custom browsers still around but the only custom part is the UI they build around one of the big engines, usually Chrome.

            ” It’s then up to the browser to choose whether or not to pass the message onto the web server, or whether to act on the message themselves.”

            Events like scrolling are sent to JavaScript code that lives in the page so it is the content provider that determines what to do with them, if anything. If the page wants to accumulate the event with Google Analytics, then the page must execute code that sends a custom event to Google where it shows up in the content provider’s data.

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted November 26, 2019 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

              Google’s Analytics code is on my NoScript banned list, and has been since … about Vista. 2008? – ish.

        • Posted November 27, 2019 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

          This is undefined, however.

  14. Posted November 25, 2019 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    I think the trend is in response to competition. There are so many different news sources, and each are dependent on eyeballs and clicks, that they have to promise a quick bit story to get those eyeballs and clicks.

  15. Posted November 25, 2019 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    BTW, did anyone catch this? Sacha Baron Cohen delivers a 25-minute speech on how he would solve the “first amendment problem” (my phrase) on social media. It’s a great speech, though I suspect his ideas would not be easy to implement if they work at all.

    ADL International Leadership Award Presented to Sacha Baron Cohen at Never Is Now 2019

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted November 25, 2019 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      That was a great speech and great video. Thanks for putting that up. Do not be so sure it will not be done. I think it will. There are many out there who want something done about these platforms and they must be regulated.

  16. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted November 25, 2019 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    I’m very vulnerable to this: ‘And This is Why’? Irresistible, if only to reject their why (or not).
    I guess I’m a sucker there.

  17. merilee
    Posted November 25, 2019 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Sub

  18. Steve Pollard
    Posted November 25, 2019 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Dunno about the situation in the States, but in the UK’s tree-based press the headlines are usually written by sub-editors, not the authors of the articles. British sub-editors, especially at the tabloid end of the spectrum, are notorious for producing crass, misleading headlines above what might be quite a good story. Answer: ignore the headline, scan the article itself.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 26, 2019 at 8:29 am | Permalink

      See also : Bettridge’s Law, and variants.
      The layer of “subbie” went a long time ago. It’s not normally done at the journalist level – they’ll provide a “running head” which is expected to be changed, such as “250w on PM speech”- but well up the chain of responsibility, including Legal.

  19. Posted November 25, 2019 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    Another type of headline I see a lot of and I find irritating takes the form “No, (such and such) is not going (to do something or not do something).” as if a question were asked. What are they teaching in journalism schools these days?

  20. Posted November 25, 2019 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Examples posted here of the offending headlines are perfect examples of stories that I will pass on without reading. More often than not, the article is just a case of first class projection. They are not informative and not helpful. I’d sooner clean my toilet than read the bilge that accompanies such headlines. I wonder how long it will be before a related story about cleaning the throne is attached to a moronic click bait headline. Here’s Why you’re not a Bad Person for Having a Dirty Crapper.

    • rickflick
      Posted November 25, 2019 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

      “I’d sooner clean my toilet than read the bilge that accompanies such headlines”

      An good candidate for an epitaph.

  21. Jenny Haniver
    Posted November 25, 2019 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Have they started combining that locution with “Wait for it…wait for it…”? All that should be followed by “Because.”

    • JP415
      Posted November 25, 2019 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

      A lot of HuffPo articles are just catchphrases gummed together with quotes from the Twitter feeds of random people.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted November 27, 2019 at 6:52 am | Permalink

      I remember one headline from a while back that was ‘You Won’t Believe What Is Hidden In This Russian Quarry’. And I remember thinking ‘if I won’t believe it what’s the fucking point of reading the article?’.

  22. Phillip Ogle
    Posted November 25, 2019 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    I’d read a news article about Trump cleaning his own toilet, as well as any member of the top 0.01%.

  23. Roo
    Posted November 25, 2019 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    I think such headlines are mostly meant to sound cool and modern. In the 80s and maybe 90s, I think headlines like these were phrased as questions (“Is Social Media Harming Your Teens Mental Health?”… or, since it was the 80s… “Does Your Teen’s Heavy Metal Music Contain Subliminal Messages?”) or made to sound cutesy (“Up All Night? What Scientists Can Tell Us About Those Java Jitters!”). I think the “Here’s Why” style is meant to sound more novel and like ‘straight talk’, since more embellished headlines are probably seen as cheesy in this day and age.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 26, 2019 at 8:32 am | Permalink

      Fine cases of Bettridge’s Law. The accompanying, sufficient text for all is “No.”

      • Roo
        Posted November 27, 2019 at 11:24 am | Permalink

        Ha ha, that’s great, never heard of Bettridge’s Law before!

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted November 29, 2019 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

          Headline : Do you need to know Betteridge’s Law?

  24. Posted November 25, 2019 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    Another peeve of mine with internet news is when a photo with two people in it is displayed that can be interpreted in a certain way, and text with the photo suggests a certain interpretation. Then, the accompanying article pertaining to that photo tells a totally different story.

    I also hate ads that pretend to give important information, such as those about illnesses and medications.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted November 26, 2019 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      I encounter this, too, and sometimes I wonder if I’m suffering incipient cognitive decline because of the disconnect; now I know I’m not the addled one or rather, I’m addled because it’s impossible to make sense out of nonsense.

  25. phar84
    Posted November 25, 2019 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    The kids are graduating and getting into the workforce so perhaps we are feeling the impact of it. Another big factor is the monetizing of ‘eyeballs’. We should know better than to participate.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 26, 2019 at 8:34 am | Permalink

      We should know better than to participate.

      Use an advert blocker. Always.

  26. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted November 26, 2019 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    This is allied to the nauseating infantile tendency of TV news to ‘personalise’ every single event. They can never just report anything any more. Instead of saying e.g. ‘Forest fires are threatening homes in the Wellsford area’ they have to start off with ‘George Scott has lived in Wellsford for 40 years and he’s worried…’ or ‘Harold Black has been a firefighter for thirty years and he’s never seen fires like this’.

    And they do it for *everything*, from a rise in air fares to a change in shop closing hours to the discovery of a new species of beetle. As if facts can have no interest or importance unless there’s some person to react to them.

    cr

    • Posted November 26, 2019 at 8:04 am | Permalink

      Two reasons why they might do that.

      1. People find it easier to relate to personal stories. It’s much easier for people to understand George having his home razed to the ground than to think of more abstract things like 200 houses at risk.

      2. It’s easier to manipulate the message. In the messy real world, no matter how good some piece of news is, you can always find somebody with a story that allows you to broadcast the negative post of view. Which gets the most clicks: “MMR completely safe, say scientists” or “Mildred’s son was vaccinated and now he’s got autism”?

    • Posted November 26, 2019 at 10:06 am | Permalink

      Yes, this is very irritating. Back in the old days, news strove to inform as their #1 task. Now it is coddling. It is not a coincidence that this kind of coverage is cheaper than maintaining reporters in every part of the globe.

      They are also covering weather events more than they ever did. They have talked about three storms hitting various places in the US this week even before they have had much impact. These are not hurricanes but normal, every year events. And, of course, they try to personalize the weather as well, telling us how many millions of people will be affected.

    • Filippo
      Posted November 26, 2019 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

      Yesterday on NPR’s All Things Considered, the “lede” of a story on multi-colored heirloom corn started out to-the-effect that a vegetable’s social media website had more subscribers than those of many listeners. As if that ought to cause a rational, reasonable person to become profoundly despondent, or regret that he does not have a social media account?

      • Mike Anderson
        Posted November 26, 2019 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

        >> a vegetable’s social media website

        I have as much disdain for Facebook as anyone but I think that’s a little harsh.

  27. Posted November 26, 2019 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    It’s become very popular on Internet publishing sites. Here’s why…

    The internet allows publishers to do a form of testing called A/B testing pretty much in real time. With A/B testing, you select two variations on a page and choose one at random for each new visitor. You then use analytics to measure how it affects what the visitor does on the page.

    If you have a hotel booking web site (for example) and you want to find out if a new design is going to be beneficial, you do A/B testing between the new design and the old design and you measure the behaviour of visitors to each. If the new site leads to 20% more people getting to the end of the process and parting with money, you consider it a success. Conversely, if a lot of people give up before the end of the new process, you assume something is wrong with it.

    Publishers like Huff PO and, in fact, most publishers on the Internet need lots of people looking at their stuff so that in turn they get lots of advertising clicks. They routinely do A/B testing in real time. They will have two alternate versions of a headline and present them randomly to each new reader and see which one garners the most click throughs to the story. That headline then becomes the one they use going forward. I know this to be true because an Ars Technica editor admitted as much in comments on a story that had a headline somebody took issue with.

    The “here’s why” headlines and the “x things about y” headlines are popular because they get clicks and clicks mean revenue. In a very real sense, we are getting what we asked for. In fact – and I don’t know if people are doing this – you could use analytics to determine what kinds of headlines individuals respond to and set a cookie in their browsers so that they can target different headline styles that are effective for each person.

    • Posted November 26, 2019 at 10:14 am | Permalink

      It isn’t unreasonable for them to do A/B testing but, presumably, humans still have to make up the headlines. They also have to worry about alienating users over the long haul. A “Free Sex!” headline will probably garner lots of clicks but unless it delivers, it is probably not a winning strategy.

      Once a publication has gained regular readers, it probably tends to keep them. But if the publication’s approach is seen as less favorable over time, the reader may abandon it completely with no warning. I suspect this has happened with HuffPo. Some of us here used to read their articles but not any more. That said, I have no idea how well they’re doing. Perhaps they have gained more new readers than they’ve lost.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted November 26, 2019 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

        ‘Clickbait’ is, I think, the right term for that.

        Some Youtube video makers do that all the time. And, judging from the scathing comments (Youtube comments sections are notorious) they get thoroughly lambasted for it.

        cr

  28. JoshP
    Posted November 26, 2019 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    So will “Evolution is true” be the title of the next edition?

  29. pablo
    Posted November 26, 2019 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Anyone else hear up-speak and vocal fry when reading those headlines?

    • merilee
      Posted November 26, 2019 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      🙀🙀🙀
      There was a seemingly very capable young woman on the news the other night who had a horrible case of both of these Valley Girl afflictions. Very hard to listen to. Surprisingly she looked to be of South Asian origin.

  30. David Evans
    Posted November 26, 2019 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    When I read you blaming this on the Left I bristled and said to myself “I bet I can find it on the Right as well”. And sure enough

    https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2019/09/12/the-nuclear-option-trump-is-still-winning-heres-why/

  31. phoffman56
    Posted November 26, 2019 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    And so, ‘Here’s why evolution is true’ will definitely not become the new title for this non-blog, but ‘Evolution is true’ might?

    Sorry, couldn’t resist, tongue is almost penetrating inner cheek.

    Has an article plus comments with more occurrences of “..why..” ever happened?

    • merilee
      Posted November 26, 2019 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

      Why do you ask🤣

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted November 27, 2019 at 7:58 am | Permalink

        Ohhh

        I see what you did there

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted November 27, 2019 at 7:07 am | Permalink

      Surely there’s a distinction with a difference to make there?

      Additionally, WEIT – The Book! was published way before the current trend – perhaps it was part of what started the trend.

      There’s something good about not just asserting truth claims, but bringing arguments to the table (“here’s why”) to support the truth claims. But clearly something has gone wrong – especially if the “truth claims” are pieces of minutiae, instead of a substantial task. Supporting the claim that evolution is true is a substantial task.

    • phoffman56
      Posted November 27, 2019 at 7:45 am | Permalink

      Sorry guys, but please don’t take me more seriously than I expected. I have managed to remove that tongue-in-cheek without too much blood.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted November 27, 2019 at 8:02 am | Permalink

        I understood the humor in the comment – I thought it was amusing. But I think it’s worth arguing as an exercise – especially since it is a superficial observation.

    • phoffman56
      Posted November 27, 2019 at 8:10 am | Permalink

      How about: ‘Here’s what a special person like you really really needs to know about why evolution is true’?

      • merilee
        Posted November 27, 2019 at 9:16 am | Permalink

        “5 Reasons why a Special Person Like You…”

        • phoffman56
          Posted November 27, 2019 at 9:44 am | Permalink

          Good.
          The next fluff expansion on Merilee’s invention might be:

          ‘Don’t Fail to Read the Five Reasons Why a Special Person Like You Really Really Needs to Know about Why Evolution Is True’

          • merilee
            Posted November 27, 2019 at 9:58 am | Permalink

            “Don’t fail” sounds maybe too intelligent. Will have to think of something dumber. And I think we perhaps need three “really”s.
            Maybe “You’ve really gotta…”

          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted November 27, 2019 at 10:00 am | Permalink

            Reason #1 : the universe doesn’t care about you

  32. Posted November 29, 2019 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Some Youtube video makers do that all the time. And, judging from the scathing comments (Youtube comments sections are notorious) they get thoroughly lambasted for

  33. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted December 2, 2019 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    “How can I become a fossil?”

    https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20180215-how-does-fossilisation-happen

    The headline dies not EXACTLY match the trend, but does show that the “personalization” which might explain it.


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