The recent rash of vandalism in Rotary Park and thefts from the Midstream Support Society had many people shaking their digital fists at “those damned kids” and their idle ways. Although there is no evidence as to the age of the culprits, the finger was immediately wagged at teens. Regardless of the age, the bad behaviour has some residents thinking – what’s the rest of the summer going to be like for property crimes?
Is it time for a curfew in Morinville?
Now here’s where it gets interesting. Despite the headline and first paragraph of this editorial, the piece really has nothing to do with curfews. You see, studies show many people do not read past the headline these days. If they do, they do not read much past the first paragraph before hitting the like button or offering their opinion on the handful of words they’ve actually read. In fact, some people will make a judgment call based solely on the photo that accompanies the article. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.
We’re not alone in this opinion. The Washington Post published an article a couple of years ago that suggested Americans read headlines and not much else. The information presented in Chris Cillizza’s article cited a study that indicated 6 in 10 Americans admitted to just grazing headlines rather than digging deeper into the news story for the full information.
Cillizza’s observation at the end of the brief article is that simple messaging is the most effective messaging, particular messaging that can fit on a bumper sticker or news headline.
The Morinville News is a strong believer in publishing our news headlines on social media. Our stats say there is a solid chance you are reading this article by way of one of those social media channels. But we also realize some people will never dig deeper than the headline and accompanying photo.
This knowledge has lead to the rise of media organizations using clickbait, a practice where headline writers use human curiosity to get you past the headline and on to the site.
Had we used clickbait in our headline about recent vandalism, we wouldn’t have written – “Rotary Park vandalism frustrating for service club.” Instead, we would have written the headline – “Rotary says no more going number two in the park. The reason why will leave you disgusted.”
Today, we receive endless media messaging from multiple channels, and few of us use any critical thinking in digesting it. We’re too quick to offer our opinion on what we think we already know based on the outrage the headline caused us.
It remains increasingly important to give readers the most important information in the first few sentences of an article as studies show 6 in 10 people do not get much past that point.
As we continue well past 400 words in this editorial, we will close by making this one about curfews.
Grown ups should be indoors by 10 p.m. and take the next hour to read at least one news article from the start until the finish.
Then you will be entitled to offer your brilliant opinions on what you actually read.