A headline is a very vital part of an article as it indicates the nature of the article below it. It is also used to grab a reader’s attention in order to increase his or her interest in reading the article.
As the internet and social media have become more popular, there has been decreasing attention span among readers as a result of numerous things competing for their attention.
It is thus very common for news sites, blogs or even individuals on social media to create very sensational, attention-grabbing headlines or comments on articles when sharing them on their various social media platforms. This is all in a bid to get the readers to open the article, also called a clickbait.
However, this has often enabled the spread of fake news as the headline or comment could either not correlate with the content or it amplifies a small part of the article which taps into the emotions of the audience.
Rather than the audience reading the article, they run with the headline as the whole story and repeat it to others who further amplify it.
For example: The Cable headlined their profile article on the new Acting Chief Justice of Nigera, Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad as “PhD holder, former Sharia judge — meet Tanko Muhammad, acting CJN”.
While indeed the Acting Chief Judge was once a judge at the Sharia Court of Appeal in Bauchi State for only 2 years in a 36-year law career, the headline was a clickbait considering the controversy around his appointment and the context of the situation. It portrayed him as having been only a Sharia Court judge before, which was only what people with inflamed passions took from it.
The article also gave a fuller picture of the new Acting Chief Justice than the headline let on.
It is very important to always read the article no matter how scandalous or attention-grabbing the headline is and not just conclude based on the headline. This will help you to form your own opinions and conclusions based on the body of the article and not its headline.
While clickbaits continue to thrive and we are not calling for its ban, as a rule of thumb, the more sensational the headline, the more necessary it is to read the entire article.