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Swallowed disinfectant and headline writers

Posted by John T. Reed on

Trump’s suggestion of using disinfectant inside the body was idiotic. His statement that he was being sarcastic is a lie.
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His suggestion that UV light inside the body might be safe and effective is being considered by the medical profession, but it is a matter for the doctors on his covid 19 panel, not him, to discuss.
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Trump went nuts over one of his covid 19 panel doctors being misquoted by the Washington Post about the Covid 19 virus returning in the fall like the seasonal flu does. The doctor said he was not misquoted in the body of the story, but that the headline misrepresented what he said.
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He is right about that.
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Journalists are generally in the habit of being careful to get their facts straight. Not because they are nice guys, but because their employers do not want to get sued and lose. Also, having to run corrections is embarrassing.
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Finally, this is a perennial problem. Journalists, as I said, have a deeply ingrained fact-checking habit. Headline writers, on the other hand, are scum. They are in the hype business, the sensational business.
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True, they have limited space. They have had to invent a partial new language because of that. One of the most famous headlines ever was in Hollywood. Wikipedia said,
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“Sticks Nix Hick Pix"...printed in Variety, a newspaper covering Hollywood and the entertainment industry, on July 17, 1935, over an article about the reaction of rural audiences to movies about rural life.
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The NY Daily News ran another that said “Ford to NYC: Drop Dead.” NYC incessantly brings it up whenever DC rejects NYC’s latest begging for federal funds to pay for NYC fiscal mismanagement.
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CBS did an honest expose of Army General William Westmoreland, the first US commander in Vietnam. Westmoreland flipped out and did the usual stiff-necked indignation about the mere suggestion that his integrity was less that 100.00%. That is ridiculous given that he originated and presided over the famous Friday Night Follies press briefings every week in Vietnam. They were lie festivals, most notably for the exaggerated body counts that cumulatively exceeded the population of North Vietnam.
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But the case, which I read two books about, came down to the fact that the story was accurate, but the scum in the hype department overstated the case in advertisements trying to get people to watch the expose. CBS and Westmoreland settled out of court.
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A high percentage of libel suits are about headlines written by scumbag in the advertising department, not about the body of the story. The media organizations ought to clean up their act. They never have. This has been a problem since headlines were invented. If management cared, it would have stopped at least at some outlets. It has not.
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I am both a journalist and my own headline writer and book title author. I do not hype. I fiddled with the outline of a new book about treating your homes as your main fiddled investment. My working title is “Your principal residence: the only investment you’ll ever need.”
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For sales, it is a good hype title, but I cannot use it because it overstates. For one thing, you home is not very liquid and you need to buy groceries and pay other bills.
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The pattern of media executives not caring about headline accuracy for centuries may be admissible, especially in Times vs Sullivan, public figure vs. media cases where the question is whether the media “recklessly disregarded” whether the alleged libel was true or not. They sure did, they have been doing it since the 1800s to increase profits.
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Sue them. Sue them. Sue them. You will generally get an out-of-court settlement. This is not only libel. It is libel for profit. The headline hypesters are trying to increase eyeballs, clicks, circulation, ratings, etc. all of which are directly related to the bottom line of the media outlet in question.

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