I'm sick of link-bait and disingenuous titles

People’s attention spans are getting shorter, and it’s also harder to attract attention online. This leads to link-bait titles that are beyond frustrating.

It’s gotten to a point where sometimes journalists and writers go too far on titles that are borderline disingenuous. Studies show that most people don’t read articles before sharing them. This is fact.

And most people who do read, don’t read beyond the first few pages of a paginated article. So for a title to be misleading not only lies to people to get them to click, but it also spreads misinformation for people who only read the title and assumed it was truthful. 

Here’s an example from today’s news, and there are tons of examples everyday.

There’s a huge difference between “backing off” a story and officially “retracting” it. Retracting something is a lot more extreme. But the average reader isn’t thinking that deeply into these subtleties in word choice that shape your initial interpretation of the story.


Once you click into the article on USA Today, the writer says that Rolling Stone "retreats" from their position. I mean, Rolling Stone reached out to the fraternity that was accused or raping the girl, and the frat says this:

“They responded that they couldn’t confirm or deny her story but had concerns about the evidence.”

The fraternity that was being accused is saying they have “concerns about the evidence” being used against them. Really? This is surprising? This is not shocking. Usually people who are accused of things will deny or push back. Especially for a high-profile case like this. The point is though, that the USA Today article didn’t help to spin things further out of control. They put their own spin on Rolling Stone’s spin on the frat’s spin on the victim’s account. 


There’s 3 parts of the article.

The title says “backs off” the story, probably because the writer knew that it would be straight up lying to say “retracts” in the title.

The excerpt says that Rolling Stone "retracts" the story.

And when you click into the actual article, the body text says that the Rollin Stones had a “shocking retreat” of the story.

This isn’t even the worst example of link bait. It’s everywhere online. When publications and writers are optimizing for clicks, it leads to people writing whatever it takes to get clicks. That’s not okay. We need stricter rules on journalistic standards that everyone agrees to abide by.