Reminder when you get mad at an article’s shitty headline that headlines are virtually never written by the article’s author, who may fully agree with you but can’t complain themselves without risking their job and therefore their food and rent.
Really? I’m curious as to how you know this.
Well I’ve written articles for some humor sites in the past, but this is just the standard practice across all types of articles and common knowledge to any kind of writer; mainstream news, clickbait, everything. They all have a different person or set of people whose job is to come up with the headlines/titles according to what the bosses think is a good summary or attention-grabbing.
These are true facts, I’m fairly obsessed with media (like moreso than biology), I have two degrees in it, I worked in media since 2016 and at N*wsweek for nearly a year. (I also worked at a few other places but they had better headline practices.) Editors at N*wsweek told us “the point of a headline is to get readers to click. Once they’re reading the body of the article they can read the truth.”
When I first arrived our section editor and another editor would add headlines without our approval (like this one). At first I didn’t say anything because I had just moved to New York had <$300 in my bank account, so I couldn’t risk the job. Then when management wanted to blame the writers for bad heds, the writers got the right to approve (read: negotiate) headlines. Once editors suggested a headline with four errors it in and I negotiated it down to two errors. I learned to avoid stories that I knew would be saddled with an inaccurate headline. Once I almost told my editor “I will not have my byline on that lie, put your own on,” but another editor stepped in and we got a better hed.
TO BE FAIR! This is not every news organization! One that I worked at that was funded by grants instead of clicks cared a lot more about accuracy. Furthermore, N*wsweek got a lot better about heds after there was so much attention on us for District Attorney investigation into fraud and all that other crazy stuff happening. Getting harpooned by media critics on Twitter for dishonest headlines was devastating for the young writers, super stressful for those who risked being the next #fakenewsweek, and, I guess the management figured it was bad for our brand too, so I suspect that’s why we got better about it.