I totally understand why people dislike the media.  There is a movement in this so called profession to rely on clickbait for attention, and readership.  Clickbait is not going to save this country.  Only good old fashioned boring, truth in reporting will.  

But in researching my weekly Covid report, I came upon this headline on the Chicago Tribune.  Mind you it is a truthful headline.  Like it is the truth if you choose to print that one person died on a train derailment, and bury the lede of 199 living.

Like it is the truth that about a miniscule number of young men suffered heart inflammation, among the millions that took the vaccine.

Like it is the truth that518 Illinoisans have been hospitalized with COVID despite being fully vaccinated. Most had underlying conditions, data shows.”  

In an era where we need more than ever a full examination of data, Lisa Schenker, and more likely her editor, chose to run with that clickbait headline and leave the most important chunk of data in the second paragraph.

Not only that they chose to run with this headline and leave the most important chunk of data behind a paywall.

More than 500 Illinois residents, most of whom are older and have underlying health conditions, have been hospitalized because of COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated, according to data from the state health department.

But experts say the chances of getting a so-called breakthrough infection remain very low. In all, about 5.9 million Illinois residents are fully vaccinated.

I can’t fully describe how upset this story made me.  That is because another version that would have been entirely truthful, would be “Only 1 in 11, 389.9614 Vaccinated Illinoisans At Risk For Covid Hospitalization, Data Shows.”
They could have run with that headline, but then I guess they thought people would have not clicked on it or paid for their precious “journalism.”
But they knew that it would be the anti-vax lede that got the clicks, and surmounted the paywall, at least that is what they thought, in my opinion.  And while yes, the second paragraph has the most important element of data in the whole piece, how many actually go past the headlines?

Think about these interesting statistics. On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. This is the secret to the power of your title, and why it so highly determines the effectiveness of the entire piece.

The headline is the most important element of your content. You can write the best 800-word blog post of your life, but if the headline is boring and bland, that post might never get read.

Remember, every element of compelling copy has just one purpose, to get the next sentence read. And then the sentence after that, and so on, all the way down to your call to action. So, it’s fairly obvious that if people stop at the headline, you’re already dead in the water.

That means it is likely, especially considering the paywall, that over 80 percent who saw that headline, if they even saw the second “underlying condition” part, mentally ran with “Getting vaccinated didn’t help 518 people in Illinois!”  Remember, fear is what sticks, and journalism that feeds fear becoming more common everyday.

We are not winning the media wars when it comes to vaccinations.

ARC Discovery Early Career Research Fellow in UNSW Science’s School of Psychology, Dr Kate Faasse says social media is exaggerating COVID vaccine side effects and is playing a key role in people avoiding vaccination.

“Studies show that people are more likely to share their negative experiences on social media than their positive ones – so what you see online isn’t the whole story, or necessarily the most likely one,” she says.

Dr Faasse’s research has shown that people generally tend to pay closer attention to negative information than positive information. This tendency, which is called negative bias, extends to negative information about vaccines – including side effects.

We as a nation need to disseminate the entire truth, but those of us invested in getting vaccinations to reach high enough to reach herd immunity desperately need the full truth of the positive, and I mean immensely positive data, to reach the public.

But editors know that what sells is fear, and negativity, and so what if it engenders vaccine hesitancy?  It is techinically the truth that 518 Illinoisans that were vaccinated and were hospitalized, just like you could say:

“Data Shows If All Fans At A Chicago Bears Football Game Were Vaccinated ,Only About 5 Out of 60,000 At Risk Of Covid Hospitalization.”

Or-”At About 1 In 11,390 Odds Of Vaccinated Citizen Suffering Covid Complication Greater Than Odds Of Being Struck By Lightning.”

Or-”Odds Of Firearm Injury Double That Of A Vaccinated Person Developing Serious Covid Complications.”

Or-”The Effing Vaccine Effing Works, People.”

Above stats sourced here:

But they chose to go with clickbait instead of what would most benefit the public.

That is not what is best for the people, that is not what is best to stop this pandemic, but it is what is best for their bottom line.

No wonder people think the biggest uncontrolled virus of all is greed.

-ROC

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