Receiving news in the digital era: Odds are you won’t read past this headline

When it comes to keeping up with national news, no one seems to know what’s really going on. While many Americans remain uninformed and ignorant where news is concerned, the media continues to twist and slant reported stories. However, the fix to this deficiency in honest news is easier than one might think. It traces back to a very simple root: we only read headlines.

According to the Washington Post and the American Press Institute, roughly 6 in 10 people get their news from the headlines. Some may wonder how this feat is possible, but it’s really quite easy. To extract news from headlines, scroll through CNN or Drudge Report just like Twitter over your morning coffee. As you scroll, go ahead and make as many assumptions as you want about each headline, and then, since you’re obviously right, you won’t need to waste time reading the full news story. This method is not only efficient, but it boosts personal morale because it helps you feel super informed.

Even if you’re one of the rare few who takes the time to investigate a headline and read the entire story behind it, you can’t read every story out there. Unfortunately, once you glance at a headline it will stick in your head as fact and influence your opinions from then on.

I remember one incident last winter when the Starbucks Christmas cup misunderstanding was happening. I was looking at a news website, and saw a headline that stated, “Trump suggests Starbucks boycott over seasonal cups.” I trusted what I read and closed my laptop, disgusted that any presidential candidate would engage in a trivial marketing scheme like that one. However, when I went back and watched the video beneath the headline later, it claimed the opposite of the headline. Instead of suggesting a boycott, Trump, true to form, simply made a statement that mocked the whole cup fiasco. If I had only read the headline, I would never have known that.

It would be great if this skim-the-headlines method worked, because of the benefits listed above. However, the media is just as aware of it as the average citizen, and they can easily work it to their advantage. While it’s clearly unethical for the media to twist exact quotes and events, they can phrase a headline in a way that creates a certain image of the article’s subject. Even if the media does not have any suspicious agendas in crafting a headline, it’s still easy to misread them, especially when real news and parody news get mixed up.

We can’t change the media, but we can change the way we consume news content. If every American citizen makes a greater effort to read at least one news article from start to finish every day, we would all be more informed about the world’s happenings. Scrolling through headlines goes a mile wide and an inch deep, but that does little good in the big picture. Let’s all try to question what we read and investigate content, even if it sounds like an honest report.

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