As a journalist and a generally avid reader, I do a lot of news headline reading and writing.
Headlines are difficult to write -There’s a lot that needs to go into a headline. You need to give the basic information from your story so that if someone is skimming the headlines on Twitter, they can say “Oh, yeah, I heard that” and have that be a vague version of the truth. However, a headline is also what brings readers into your story, which means that very often headlines are full of puns, wordplay and clickbait. I love puns and wordplay, but this headline particularly bugs me.
This is my least favorite headline in the world for one main reason.
There’s no way that everything I need to know about a controversial topic is included in this 500-1000 word article or blog post. It’s just physically not possible. I like to know a lot about things – I love doing research, I love knowing the background of what I’m reading about. I don’t just want to know the talking points on a topic, or what 6 of your reporters wanted to know about a topic.
For example, Everything you need to know about Islam is actually a pretty good Q+A article about Islam, but there is so much more to know about Islam that the headline is inherently inaccurate. These bug me the most when they’re about people, such as Trevor Noah or Nicki Minaj, because there is so much more to a celebrity than their public persona, particularly when it’s coming through another media source.
Pretty much everybody likes a “listicle,” or a list article, especially when they don’t want to read a full article on something, and articles with these headlines end up being either listicles or Q+A’s. I have no issue with either of those, as long as they are properly labeled.
Ways I’d prefer this headline to be worded…
“A basic guide to x”
“Answering your questions about x”
“# cool things about x”
So, readers – What’s your least favorite headline or type of article to read and why?
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