Reading the headlines: An unacceptable way to learn about the world

Approximate time reading this post: 5 minutes

Bear with me okay, don’t stop at the title and don’t stop here.

In a time of politics, world issues, bad news, and good news there is a lack of reader interest. And I don’t really blame the readers. Being a journalist and a reader, sometimes I too just read the headlines and believe what they tell me. But this isn’t the best way to get your daily news fix. Some journalists are lying to you, so here’s how to recognize the faulty information when you see it.

(I would like to first state that I am guilty of doing this on occasions when it comes to reading news articles, fashion posts, or any of the latest and greatest. Especially on Facebook, if I read a headline, it strikes my interest, and I do not have time at the moment to read past the headline and first paragraph, I share the article publically and read it later on that day. IF I decide at the time that I read the article that I disagree with their points, opinions, or find their evidence to be faulty, I remove the post from my page.)

But this goes beyond the realm of shared Facebook likes and dislikes. The rising misunderstanding of what is actually going on in the world is a fact the news, journalists, readers, and nonreaders need to grasp. The concept of getting one’s “news” by just reading headlines creates a very small window of knowledge and political correctness. As a whole society and merely reading the headlines, this could make misinformed information actually become the truth. It’s like when someone tells you that if you keep repeating the same lie long enough, you won’t be able to remember which story of your own is true anymore.

Last year, The Washington Post, published an article called “Americans read headlines. And not much else” where they mentioned a study on the fact of how much news we consume and don’t consume. About “41% of Americans report that they watched, read, or heard any in-depth news stories, beyond the headlines, in the last week. 49% reported that they invested additional time to delve deeper and follow up on the last breaking news story they followed. So, roughly 6 in 10 people acknowledge that they have done nothing more than read news headlines in the past week. And, in truth, that number is almost certainly higher than that, since plenty of people won't want to admit to just being headline-gazers but in fact are,” Chris Cillizza wrote.

As a journalism major, I understand the purpose of headlines, how to write one, how to grab a reader’s attention, which audience to pull in with the headline, and how to mislead the reader. I really honed in on this recurring fact recently after the multiple school shootings in the United States. I would also like to disclaim that the victims and their families have my full attention and I am deeply sorry for their losses. My following thoughts and opinions in no way are not acknowledging the unfortunate events of the victims and their families but I am questioning the way the media portrays them.

Especially in recent news that really hit home was the Northern Arizona University death of one student, Colin Brough, and several others who survived but were injured, Nicholas Prato, Kyle Zientek and Nicholas Piring. I decided to mention the names of the victims and not the shooter because in the news the victims are often unacknowledged while the shooter’s name is heard around the world. People shouldn’t only be recognized if they die or if they commit a horrendous crime. But those are the names that the audience wants to hear in the news; hoping they don’t know them in either circumstance.

In the wake of school shootings, specifically at NAU, many people were startled by multiple headlines that read along the lines of “MASS SHOOTING AT NAU.” This not only startled students at NAU but their friends, family, and most of Arizona. I was greatly disappointed when I saw that Vice News posted an article on the day of Brough’s death, “Yet Another Mass Shooting Has Left One Dead and Three Injured at Northern Arizona University” which you can read for yourself because it is too ridiculous to even analyze at this point. I have read this article multiple times but right now I just really can’t get past the headline.

You can see that in the comments multiple people were outraged not only by their loose content but the headline in general using the words “mass shooting.” Many commentators on the article questioned the meaning of “mass shooting” in this case. I tried to research if there was a correct definition in APA style writing (which is the format journalists must follow) to define “mass shooting” but there is no difference or guidelines in when a journalist mentions a shooting or a mass shooting. I have a feeling this will soon change in the world of journalism for when the news is allowed to use certain words like “mass shooting,” “school shooting” and “shooting” to accurately explain a situation like this. At least I hope so.

This is one of the many reasons why I want to go into the field of journalism. I think we will always have bad news but I don’t believe we will always have to have inaccurate news. This should change because the world deserves to know what’s going on across the ocean or next door. I believe in privacy but I also believe in the truth. My heart goes out to Brough’s family and friends and the rest of the NAU community in this wake of confusion and sadness.


My advice to avoid the confusion that comes with faulty news is...

  1. Read between the headline, before and after it. Then read it again and you decide if it fits.

  2. If you have the time: investigate further into other news sources and especially direct sources. In this case, I went directly to the NAU website where I found a time schedule of the occurrences on that day and a letter from President Rita Cheng of NAU.

  3. Just because you aren't interested in reading or watching the news on a regular basis does not mean you don't care. It's a complicated line to define but I understand because that was me. I highly encourage anyone who does not often learn about what is going on in the world to find something that sparks your interest and go from there. Because this stuff affects you more than you may understand right now.

  4. Please remember that not all news sources and journalists are untrustworthy. You know one good one *cough* me *cough*.


Thank you for sticking with me throughout this lengthy post but I just really had to get this out of my system. And if you didn’t make it past the headline, your loss.