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Oct 29 2013

Please tell me they show this comic in journalism school

And that it’s shown as an example of what not to do, rather than a recipe for success.

headlines

I don’t know about you, but it seems all of the news sites I read have adopted this as a model.

35 comments

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  1. 1
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    Wow, I remember when Journalism was an actual profession that required a real human doing real investigative work. Look how much more efficient we’ve gotten! Now we just write headlines that make sure to employ the words trick, weird and shocking and the word salad underneath doesn’t even matter.

  2. 2
    Raging Bee

    Capitalist economies give us a lot of good things. Relevant and reliable sources of information are, unfortunately, not among them.

  3. 3
    Owlmirror

    Evo-devo professors: Genial teddy bears or blasphemous sacreligious impious monsters? You decide!

  4. 4
    blf

    Capitalist economies give us a lot of good things. Relevant and reliable sources of information are, unfortunately, not among them.

    Pentagon papers?
    Watergate?
    Magdalene laundries?
    NSA spying?

    All of those — and numerous other examples — are apparently not relevant, not reliable, and/or not presented in sources of information operating in capitalistic economies.

  5. 5
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @Raging Bee:

    Look, effects about access to information, especially widely disparate access to info, are very complicated. This results in Butterfly Effects that make economies chaotic and vulnerable. But we do have a solution to these problems you identify with unreliable or incomplete information being the only info available to economic decision makers:

    We assume rational actors with perfect information.

    Problem solved. Also, as an aside, it relieves CNBC of any responsibility for producing content, which is going to make their costs sink considerably: I’m putting a Strong Buy on them.

  6. 6
    firstcircleofhell

    :) in my browser what appears before the comments on this page is this (agreed, this isn’t journalism; it’s advertising on a blog):

    WATCH: Embarrassing Video
    This story could bring worst shame to White House since Clin…
    http://www.StansberryResearch.com

    What Is Free Testosterone
    If you’re a man over 30 you need to read this shocking discovery…
    http://www.nugenix.com

    Clever Joint Solution
    Find out why this shocking joint solution is flying off shelves
    http://www.instaflex.com

  7. 7
    Lynna, OM

    Cross-posted from the [Lounge] thread:

    Hey, Wall Street Journal, wha dafuq?

    … The WSJ now has an online feature called “The Experts,” in which the paper features commentary from specialists and authorities in their given fields. Yesterday, as Jon Chait discovered, this meant giving ’70s-era actress Suzanne Somers a forum to attack the Affordable Care Act as a “socialist Ponzi scheme.”

    The piece is a bizarre, 543-word screed, filled with strange errors of fact and judgment, culminating in Somers’s attempt to draw a historical parallel: “It’s the dark underbelly of the Affordable Care Act reminiscent of what Lenin and Churchill both said. Lenin: ‘Socialized medicine is the keystone to the arch of the socialist state.’ Churchill: ‘Control your citizens’ health care and you control your citizens.’”

    As the paper’s editors later conceded, the quotes Somers relied on aren’t real….

    Rupert Murdoch is dissolving the news. The now unrecognizable Murdoch Slime that passes for news is taking over the world.

    http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/new-definition-expert

  8. 8
    brett

    Business Insider, Salon, and Quartz tend to be the worst that I know of in doing “hook-y” headlines like that (particularly BI). I don’t really blame them for it, since they’re dependent on web clicks to get the advertising revenues that support their organizations, and the competition for that is cutthroat.

    I’ve read good pieces of news that had these kinds of headlines, so it’s not some indicator of the quality of the news article. Salon in particular tends to have a mismatch between crappy headlines and good articles.

  9. 9
    David Wilford

    How soon they forget. Rupert Murdoch is but a pale imitation of William Randolph Hearst of yellow journalism infamy. Remember the Maine! Perhaps a re-reading of Mark Twain’s “Journalism in Tennessee” is in order:

    http://www.online-literature.com/twain/wild-oats/2/

  10. 10
    Trebuchet

    I’m glad to see this here because I have a question: Can someone please explain the mouseover text to me? I get all the ones in the main comic, but am stumped (and too lazy to Google) for that last one.

  11. 11
    Anders

    “Journalism school” Now there’s an oxymoron!

  12. 12
    Trebuchet

    OK, never mind, I looked up the 1916 one. In my defense, I’ll claim that I wasn’t expecting a second Einstein one.

  13. 13
    David Wilford

    @10, it’s a reference to Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity:

    http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr161/lect/history/einstein.html

  14. 14
    The Beautiful Void

    @10 Trebuchet:

    The “Physicist dad” in question is Albert Einstein. In 1916, he succeeded in explaining gravity in terms of relativistic physics; the resulting theory was called General Relativity. “Pics” and “NSFW” are comedic non-sequiturs.

  15. 15
    Muz

    The fads like this come from a few marketing “papers” that circulate widely. Since web/social media “lore” is so scarce the tips they come with seem to become like talismans to people.
    What’s weird about how norms like this develop is how everyone could be so blinkered-ly doing the same thing to such a degree. Aren’t saturated markets and trends supposed to produce defectors? The hard turn away from the crowd to something new?
    Doesn’t seem to work like that. Not with the speed you’d think anyway, since its often obvious everyone’s doing the same thing for a long time before some differentiation comes along.

  16. 16
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @David Wilford:

    No.

    It’s a reference to Einstein’s Special Relativity.

    But yes, Einstein. And I got it as a reference to Einstein and his SR immediately, which given my science-memory fails here on Pharyngula slightly mollifies me. Heh, I said “mollifies me”. Heh.

  17. 17
    David Wilford

    No, the General Theory came after the Special Theory. Unless Einstein somehow traveled through time.

  18. 18
    Owlmirror

    I’ll just leave this here for future reference:

    http://www.explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php?title=1283

    And it too says that 1916 was the year of General Relativity.

    Hm. The page linked @13 says 1915; Wikipedia’s reference (Nobel Prize – Albert Einstein Biographical) says 1916. I wonder why the discrepency?

  19. 19
    anchor

    An example of another fashionable gimmick posing as ‘news’:

    “9 Insignificant, Irrelevant and Completely Ridiculous Things You Need To Know Before Your Morning Crap”

    As if the need was a matter of friggin’ life or death.

  20. 20
    Eamon Knight

    Why are the tips always “weird”? It’s well, weird — and also annoyingly repetitive. I think I now have “weird tips” for damn near every minor medical or body-image issue I might possibly suffer from, ever. There’s also a small army of women out there (or else just one woman with a lot of home remedies) who are/is universally despised by the medical profession, for taking away their business. You’d think the recognizable pattern would trigger people’s bogosity alarms (or at least, trigger the “eyes glaze over at yet another variant of the same stupid thing” reaction). And yet this ongoing campaign (I assume it’s the same people behind it all along) evidently makes enough money to keep running sidebar ads on half the websites I frequent.

  21. 21
    Owlmirror

    Ah!

    The references for the Wikipedia page:

    Einstein, Albert (1915), “Die Feldgleichungen der Gravitation”, Sitzungsberichte der Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin: 844–847

    Einstein, Albert (1916), “Die Grundlage der allgemeinen Relativitätstheorie” (PDF), Annalen der Physik 49,

    The 1915 paper presumably presaged the 1916 one.

  22. 22
    anchor

    Einstein presented his General Field Equations to the Prussian Academy of Science in November of 1915.

  23. 23
    brucegorton

    Those aren’t really good Internet headlines. An Internet headline requires specifics that people will search for – we aren’t so much trying to catch the eye as trying to catch Google.

  24. 24
    The Mellow Monkey

    brucegorton @ 23

    Those aren’t really good Internet headlines. An Internet headline requires specifics that people will search for – we aren’t so much trying to catch the eye as trying to catch Google.

    These sorts of headlines aren’t catering to searches. They’re clickbait to be passed from person to person, not necessarily wanted but difficult to avoid. Like web herpes.

  25. 25
    sonofrojblake

    No, the General Theory came after the Special Theory. Unless Einstein somehow traveled through time.

    Now that was funny.

  26. 26
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @David Wilford:

    Okay, David, I was confused. I thought we were talking about the 1905 text in the main comic.

    The mouseover text was the subject of your comment, so I was incorrect in correcting you.

    However, I was correct in recognizing 1905 as the year of special relativity and the subject of the XKCD “dad” joke.

    So I can remember things but not read for comprehension. My god, am I a Randian now?

  27. 27
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @Eamon Knight, 20:

    I think the “weird” is implying counter-intuitive, or at least not intuitive in that you can’t think of these on your own, therefore reading them here is your only hope of accessing this knowledge.

  28. 28
    michaelbusch

    Eamon Knight:

    Why are the tips always “weird”? It’s well, weird — and also annoyingly repetitive. I think I now have “weird tips” for damn near every minor medical or body-image issue I might possibly suffer from, ever. There’s also a small army of women out there (or else just one woman with a lot of home remedies) who are/is universally despised by the medical profession, for taking away their business.

    I came across an analysis of those scams (and make no mistake, they are scams) a while back. They work like this: First, a soft sell – describing something as “weird thing you might want to see” rather than “buy our X!”. Alternatively, play on people’s desire to know secret information / sympathy for supposed underdogs. Once you’ve got the mark’s attention, run them through a long video further extolling the supposed virtues of the product, taking advantage of the human bias to become more certain of something with exposure to repeated assertions of it – even if those assertions are provably false. Anyone who has clicked on and then sat through the entire ad is someone who is less likely to recognize that they’ve been conned. So only then do you take their money and send them the fake weight-loss pills / first-100-words-of-German lessons / “free energy” machine (ideally on a recurring-unless-canceled credit card payment plan).

    This is apparently a fairly profitable kind of scam.

    Addendum: I found a similar analysis from Slate while looking for the one I read before. It uses the same style of headlines as the ads: “How one weird trick conquered the internet”. So yeah?
    http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2013/07/how_one_weird_trick_conquered_the_internet_what_happens_when_you_click_on.single.html

  29. 29
    Jacob Schmidt

    17 things that will be outlawed now that women can vote

    Wasn’t that an actual argument against women being allowed to vote? That all those women were such controlling prudes that they were going to outlaw alcohol and other “manly” interests?

  30. 30
    Anthony K

    @a_ray_in_dilbert_space:

    Wow, I remember when Journalism was an actual profession that required a real human doing real investigative work.

    As David Wilford points out in #9, no, you don’t.

  31. 31
    Eamon Knight

    @27: I was thinking more along the lines of: “Geez, can’t these scammers come up with fresh-sounding slogans?” But as @28 points out: the current pitch is apparently working well enough, so why mess with it?

  32. 32
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    Anthony K.,
    I am not decrying the fact that there are bad journalists, but rather the fact that there really aren’t any good ones. NPR has been dumbed down to the point where you are lucky if they tell you anything in a 2 hour newscast tat actually makes you think. Even The Economist is slacking, relying on standard journalistic tropes and reinforcing reader prejudices rather than challenging them. For all practical purposes, newspapers are dead, radio is in a coma and television news makes you stupider. It used to be that you could at least seek out good journalism. Now there is none to be had no matter how hard you look.

  33. 33
    carlie

    But as @28 points out: the current pitch is apparently working well enough, so why mess with it?

    More like the current pitch has been created through natural selection to be the fittest of its kind. It’s not a “well enough”, it’s the one that has risen to the top over all of the other permutations.

  34. 34
    Area Man

    “500 signs you’re a 90s kid”

    That one’s not too far from the truth. I recall that when 1990 came, the media were falling all over themselves to declare that we were suddenly in a new era, as if the changing of the calendar had somehow permanently altered our culture (it didn’t; we had MC Hammer before 1990, and sadly, after 1990).

  35. 35
    vaiyt

    I’m a journalist and what is this.

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