Headlines Can Be Murder: FOX 32 News Flub Exposes Risk of Fast-Moving Media

Twitter should be a two-way communication tool, but sometimes it’s a one-way (and goes down the wrong way) street.

Writing headlines is a lot easier said than done.

It requires creativity, as long as you don’t get “too creative” and veer into distasteful or otherwise dubious terrain.

It demands brevity, but not so succinct that you fail to communicate some gist of the story that follows.

And, of course, it ought to be brimming with accuracy, or else you jeopardize all that follows and risk developing a reputation for misinformation.

With social media moving at a blur, the risks and rewards of headline writing are magnified. Often, the headline is all that your audience will see. And very frequently, a compelling headline will spark that much sought-after click to gather more details.

Such was the case about 1:50 p.m. today when I saw the Tweet from FOX 32 News in Chicago declaring, “Man charged with two girls’ murders also shot motel clerk.” About two minutes after the tweet, I sent a reply to FOX 32 News alerting them to the mistake: “Headline is WRONG–it’s ATTEMPTED murders of the girls.”

Alas, my message has gone unheeded, at least so far. And it’s not as if their social media leader/staff has taken a nap. Ten minutes after its erroneous “murder” headline, and some eight minutes after my note to them, the TV station issued a Tweet on another story:

“@Chicago_Wolves say attendance is up 10%.”

As of 2:30 p.m., 40 minutes after its first mis-Tweet and three more news-tweets later, the incorrect headline remained, not only on the station’s Twitter feed but on the My Fox Chicago website. In fairness, it’s likely that the original mistake occurred with the Sun-Times Media Group, which is credited with the story that appears not only on the FOX website but elsewhere, as I learned via a Google search.

However, the fact remains that with each passing moment, the station continues to misinform its 25,000-plus followers on Twitter.

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