Oct 2009

Misleading media Part 324,078

It irritates me immensely when newspaper sub-editors insist upon placing misleading headlines above a story. Fair enough if it’s a comment-piece and there’s an argument for the creative use of ambiguity. But when it’s an article purporting to be a news report, I find it very annoying indeed. It’s sensationalist and manipulative and undercuts the information within the article. In what other way is this information being ‘sexed up’, one is forced to wonder. Can I actually trust any of it?

Of course, this is far from an original observation and I’m hardly the first person to lament the sensationalism of the mainstream media nor the untrustworthiness of the information provided. Still it rankles.

In The Guardian, for instance, we have an article headlined: ‘Death tourism’ leads Swiss to consider ban on assisted suicide. Well, it turns out — and one only needs to read the article beneath the headline to discover this — that while a ban has been “considered” (I’m not suggesting the headline is a lie, merely misleading), the Swiss are almost certainly not going to introduce one preferring instead to adopt tighter regulations…

The new rules would include requiring patients to obtain two medical opinions proving their illness was incurable and probably fatal within months. These doctors must state that the dying person had the mental capacity to assert their wish to die, and prove they had held this wish for some time. The new proposal would also require assisted dying groups to provide better written records to stop organisations profiting from patients wanting to die.

All of these are probably quite sensible proposals (particularly the last one) and fail to come anywhere close to constituting an outright ban. But “Swiss to tighten assisted-suicide regulations” doesn’t make quite as good a headline.

I really wish that the media would stop doing this (leastways those elements of the media who claim to be “responsible”… tabloids obviously would cease to exist without such sensationalist and misleading tactics) as it gradually erodes our willingness to trust any information they provide.

Actually, that may itself be a good thing.

Posted in: Opinion