Friday, December 12, 2008

Writing For Robots

Where's the news value in the headline on this story?

One has noticed News' online subeditors using names in headlines frequently. It's a puzzling trend in the cases of ordinary people who are experiencing 15 minutes of newsworthiness.

After all, as a headline, which is supposed to describe the story below, the sentence 'Mavis Smith gives birth in car park' causes one not to wonder at the circumstances surrounding the event as much as 'who the hell is Mavis Smith?'.

With celebrities, it would be a different matter, eg. 'Amy Winehouse gives birth in car park', which would cause one to simply think 'typical'.

One suspects a reason for the meaningless non-celebrity name headlines is to feed search engines and thus bring in site visitors as family, friends and associates of a person suddenly in the news 'google' them to see what's been said. This may increase visitor stats (and ad revenue) but writing for search engine optimisation rather than for sense only further diminishes journalism.

However, in the case of the trial story above, one has to ask what is the motivation in not only making the non-entity guilty party's name part of the headline but also his suburb and city?

The perp's lawyer at one point says of his client's former defacto:

"She is not a movie star or a public figure," he said.
Neither is the respondent.

The headline is either taking SEO to a nonsensical new height, typical News Limited prurience or a rather petty desire on the part of the sub to give the man a taste of his own medicine, something which is not the role of a news story.

At least it shouldn't be.

-- Nick

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