Boring stories and misleading headlines... what fun.

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Today's Tribune-Review included many stories which caught my attention... but not for any positive reasons.

An irrelevant story: The first story on the front page, "Planes, trains, automobiles: Numbers tell a story," is completely uninteresting to me.  There is no reason for me to care about how many people use Route 8 or the airport.  This article simply spouts of numbers which mean nothing.  The writer fails to relate these numbers to his readers.  What do the lower number of daily travelers mean to me?  The story is not front page material.

Misleading headline: Swine flu is apparently going to wipe out the entire country.  The article "Swine flu toll may hit 90,000" uses the word may quite a bit.  The usage is misleading.  Readers may assume that it is going to happen that way.  After reading the article, I learned that swine flu may "lead to as many as 90,000 deaths."  Further into the article, the writer mentions that it is a "plausible scenario" and that "30,000 to 90,000 people may die."  The article also mentions that the seasonal flu kills around 36,000.  Logic would say that the number falls into the predicted range of the swine flu.  The title is misleading and simply creates more hype of this flu.  I have been finding articles like this for the past several months, and all threaten impending doom.  I'll believe these articles when something more actually happens.

Manipulative advertising: There was an advertisement from the U.S. citizens Association which certainly jumped off the page with its big, bold print.  At first, it seems like any other story since the word "advertisement" is placed at the top right hand corner of the page in very small print.  They are misleading readers to think that it is a real article.  Also, they state that the president and the Democrats "want to bankrupt the nation with socialized medicine and socialist energy taxes."  First of all, I am sure it was not the goal of the president to bankrupt the country.  Second of all, they are using red scare tactics from the 50's.  Looking back on that decade, we wonder how people could have fallen for these scares.  Apparently these tactics are still being used today.

Too many negative facts-- the writer was baised: The article about texting was interesting.  The writer mentioned a woman named Jennifer Leigh who suggested that "Many teens seldom answer their cell phones and let the incoming calls go to voicemail, in order to train callers to text instead."  If you are a teenager, please tell me the last time you did this.  This line which the writer decided to include makes teenagers seem manipulative.  The other facts the writer uses makes teenagers out to be relationship-deprived.  The writer also includes that Leigh says that teenagers are a "relationship -stunted generation."  The writer is focusing on all of the negative points of texting.  If teenagers are texting more often, that means they are have more social interaction.  It may not be face-to-face, but it's still there.  I am not a texter myself, but after reading this article, I feel the need to defend it.

2 Comments

Thanks for your spirited and detailed comments, Kaitlin. We aren't all going to be interested by the same stories, but I'd say that if you were one of the thousands of people who commute via route 8, or you are planning to use the airport soon or you need to pick up someone who is using the airport, then you just might find the article newsworthy. As it is, the story is squeezed into a narrow bar along the top, which indicates that the editors felt there was plenty of other news that was more worthwhile.

I do think you have excellent points about the hyped up flu stories. (I rarely bother to read any article that has "May" or "Could Be" in the headline.) It may be that swine flu will claim 30000 additional deaths, on top of those usually caused by the regular flu.

Yes, the teen texting article leaned very heavily on repeating what one expert said. A sociologist or a media scholar might actually put teens in a lab with cell phones and observe and measure what they do, but that's scientific research, and it takes months or years. Reporters have to churn out stories much faster than that, but there are pro-texting scholars who would probably be perfectly happy to talk to reporters.

Greta Carroll said:

Kaitlin, I agree with you about pretty much everything you've said. The "Planes, Trains, Automobiles" article did not interest me either. The Swine Flue article just seemed like it wanted to create mass hysteria, that Ad annoyed me and seemed misleading, and the texting story seemed like stale news. However, as Dr. Jerz pointed out, someone most be interested in these stories. The Tribune-Review obviously thinks that these stories are ones that will relate to their readers and that they have written them in a way that their readers will like.

I never really looked this closely at News Articles before though, I just kind of took them for granted, so it's a bit disturbing to notice ones that are sprinkled so heavily with words like "may." I suppose it's just a two-fold lesson to us. Number one, as readers, we need to be perceptive enough to pick up on these things and not just believe what we read. And number two, as "student-journalists," we should pay attention to the things that turn us off and make note of them, so we can avoid these things ourselves.

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