If you haven’t been following the latest scandal in the Twitter-sphere I mean where have you been? But The Washington Post landed themselves in some hot water with the public over a headline that read ‘Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State, dies at 48.’ You can see the issue here, a slightly strange obituary for the leader of ISIS to described as an ‘austere religious scholar’. It didn’t take long for quick witted Tweeters to pick up on this and call out the newspaper, who proceeded to quickly changed their headline to a more appropriate alternative. However the incident promoted #WaPoDeathNotices to become trending on Twitter. Members of the public soon became spin doctors, creating their own versions of the blunder, for well known historical figures. A few of my favourites below:
You get the idea, have a look at the hashtag on Twitter for yourself, if you like dark humour and want a laugh.
But what’s the point here?
This is all just a great big glaringly obvious example of spin. Had you not known any prior information about the people mentioned in the tweet’s you might have simply read it on your newsfeed and believed it. Then you might pass that information onto to someone else, believing it to be from a reliable source.
Is this all sounding rather familiar, for me spin is an infant form of fake news, a stepping stone rather. I mean if you read some of the headlines on the Daily Mail they can present a drastically different version of events to an actual story, just for clickbait and views.
So where do we draw the line? Is spin ok, but fake news isn’t? Even if the a headline is spun to be misleading and someone doesn’t open the full article for clarity and is left with a false perception? My view is that journalists, political representatives and PRP’s should try and maintain their integrity by not writing spun headlines that could be misleading, as they should be aware that often in the age of social media a headline is all someone will read, while scrolling.