News agencies consciously edit headlines and ledes to sway readers
The CNN/Fox News divide is not only a topic of national conversation; it is a determinant of national conversation. Whether they are from San Francisco, California or Akron, Ohio, readers following national news have likely heard about the shooting of Botham Shem Jean. However, the manner in which they heard about that story—the words they read and the articles they have or haven’t delved into—is just as important as their awareness of the story itself.
Headlines, subheads and ledes in news articles tactically contain—and omit—a significant amount of information. Each of the articles above is part of a scroll on the respective outlets’ webpages. Headlines and the few sentences that follow are often all it takes for a reader to form an opinion before moving to the next story. Since 60 percent of Americans stop after reading headlines, those few words are critically important.
There is no question that these headlines and subheads were calculatingly written for the specific audiences intended to consume them. According to Adam Waytz, an associate professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, two psychological concepts contribute to this media tribalism: “motivated reasoning, the idea that we are motivated to believe whatever confirms our opinions,” and “naïve realism, our tendency to believe that our perception of reality is the only accurate view, and that people who disagree with us are necessarily uninformed, irrational or biased.”
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