If you were to visit the New York Times tomorrow morning, and the first thing you saw was the image above, would you assume:
a) Lightning destroyed a building and the money house next door caught fire.
b) The New York Times is up to its old image hyperbole again.
c) JESUS CHRIST THE FUCKING WORLD IS ON FIRE! GRAB THE KIDS AND THE GUNS AND THE RATIONS…WE’RE OFF TO THE DESERT!
The answer is of course “c” because The Times is not known to use hyper-exaggeration to strike fear and terror into the hearts and minds of it’s readers, just to garnish a response and drive click-throughs.
But, if I told you the image above was from The Huffington Post, I’m sure your reaction would be:
"…but what about Kim Kardashian? Will she pull through"
In fact The Huffington Post has a long and cherished history of MAKING EVERYTHING SEEM IMPORTANT!
Let’s take the above story which contains the fantastical imagery and words Fire, Brink, Bombshell, Turmoil, and Dive.
How did other news outlets handle the story…
And some online Greek Paper:
You’ll note that the stories from other news sites use serious grown up words, and the imagery and use of those words is balanced, so that you can read the summary and use reason to judge it’s importance. For example, if the headline on the New York Times was:
"Breast Cancer Rates Have Dropped."
You’d likely see a tasteful image of a woman next to an X-ray machine receiving a mammogram.
While on The Huffington Post there would be an image of Scarlett Johansson’s rack with the headline:
Now there are a number of problems when it comes to how HuffPo employs the use of their leading story. For one thing, they seem to feel that SHOUTING IN ALL CAPS is necessary to convey the story across. It tends to overstate the seriousness of any headline, because the constant use puts all headlines on the same level of importance. For example this headline:
is by no means on the same level of importance as:
Next, their use of inflammatory images combined with hyperbolic or sensationalistic words or phrases is intended to have you shit your pants, while your inner most fears and desires drive you to click on the image…because MONEY HOUSE ON FIRE!!!
The real estate on the top of the landing page is so valuable, they feel they cannot afford to waste it on a thoughtful story and summary of said story, and if that story isn’t trending how they want it, they will just swap it out for something better.
UPDATE: Since I wrote this story yesterday, I headed over this morning to do a possible follow up on the crisis. You can now find the story below….um…let’s see…there’s the abortion/porn headline, Neil Patrick Harris at Halloween, Salman Rushdie and Kim Kardashian (who ever thought those words would be written in the same sentence), Ghost Sex, obligatory iPhone article…
You are probably asking to yourself…
Wait, are you telling me that the article that was so important it required a cataclysmic image and matching headline…is no longer anywhere on the front page?
Yes, I would be telling you that.