So, the headline is really the story, I suppose. The question that has been on America;s mind since at least this election cycle for most people. Much longer for some of us, yours truly included. Ever since I was a kid and heard the saying that the purpose behind media was “selling soap to consumers”. That the ultimate goal (selling soap) had to be placated by the need to get people to buy the medium, whether it be newspapers, television or internet-driven new media. As the cacophony of more and more and more ‘media’ outlets have arisen, so has the need of the ‘media’ to stand-out from the pack. Either by cherry-picking their facts to drive their preferred conclusion, or by sensationalizing their headlines and stories with misleading and oftentimes questionable facts and sourcing.
The latest example of the death of journalism comes from what was once the paragon of the profession, the New York Times. They wrote a piece that appeared on the front page entitled “Rising Seas Turn Coastal Houses Into a Gamble.” Now, if you were an ordinary, busy American reader, you might suppose a few truths from that headline. Namely, that “Rising Seas” were making “Coastal Houses” into more of a financial “Gamble”. See how I nicely pieced that together? Now what has been all over the media in recent times that might effect “Rising Seas”? Well, if you don’t live under a rock, you would make the logical leap from that to “Climate Change”, wouldn’t you? Makes perfect sense, right? Unfortunately, if you read the article, it actually blames the “Gamble” part of the headline not on climate change, or even rising seas, but rather on ongoing problems with the (disaster that is) the Federal flood insurance program (NFIP). Wham!
If nothing else, this exhibits two things: First, that we, as consumers of news, need to be sure we scour every bit of media we consume and ask ourselves questions of the source when doing so. Someone once said “I don’t have a problem with the New York Times being Leftist. I have a problem with their denial that they are.” Consider the source carefully when weighing their content. Secondly, It shows a greater propensity for certain media outlets to be willing to shape the news in such a way that it (a) appeals to their base and (b) helps push forward their version of events as they see it and/or wish it to be. The real problem with such shaping is that when caught, it makes to content suspect, even if it was mostly true. In this example, by trying to push “Climate Change” as the headline, it cheapens climate change and makes an objective reader less inclined to believe your next story on climate change.
Here is the link to the Wall Street Journal story by Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. It’s a good read: http://www.wsj.com/articles/shoreline-gentry-are-fake-climate-victims-1480111739