Living in the age of social media presents significant challenges for a writer or a journalist. There is tons of pressure to be the first to break news or introduce a fresh angle on an existing story. People are hungry for content and searching it out like a cat stalking a mouse in a field.
A persistent demand for content has produced some negative side effects. More and more websites are turning to offering up various forms of click bait articles to draw in new traffic to their pages. To stand out from the crowd, they resort to sensational headlines and incendiary opinions to generate buzz on social media.
Click Bait is a Destructive Force
It is an inevitable result, I suppose, of a world where loudmouth and unintelligent talking heads dominate TV, radio, newspapers and the Internet. Such a trend is also dangerous and short-sighted because it neglects the true purpose of journalism.
Journalists are watchdogs. Their role is to report objectively on the world around us and both inform and educate so that our basic civil rights are preserved from the designs of people and organizations who would strip those rights away. It is their duty to bring all essential facts to light and tell a complete, objective story.
Click bait journalism eschews such responsibilities and often ignores ethics for the sake of generating buzz. The purveyors of this type of content don’t typically bother to fact check what they write or craft an article that examines both sides of the story. They are satisfied with simply vomiting up an uniformed opinion, adding a sarcastic quip here and there, tacking on some visual media and then publishing a post.
This approach generates the desired traffic, but it comes at a huge cost. Click bait articles are often rife with inaccuracies, distortions and outright lies. They often end up smearing the name of individuals and organizations and damage their reputations.
Ethical journalism starts with being accurate, fair and honest. Writers and journalists should take time when gathering, reporting and interpreting information to make sure it is accurate and presented in the correct context.
Never distort facts to fit a desired narrative. Minimize harm when sharing a story. This means balancing pursuit of a story with compassion and respect for the individuals involved and affected by it. Avoid pandering to the lowest common denominator, even if others are engaged in such an activity.
Adhering to ethical standards will make you a better writer. You will engender the trust of both your sources and your readers. You will be able to make a positive difference in informing and educating your audience.
Best of all, you’ll rise above the click bait virus that is so pervasive through various media and social media channels.