Recently, in newspapers and internet bulletins, exaggerated headlines have greatly increased. The reason for this is quite simple: the more attention-grabbing the headline gets, the quicker the subscription rates rise. This, in short, boosts the media companies’ profits and makes them feel they are more competitive.
But if such articles prevail, the complaints for ‘real’ news will rise accordingly. Moreover, after reading a bombastic article, some subscribers might say: "Deceived again!" or "I wouldn’t trust the press any more." This shows that people are losing their trust in mass media more and more.
Then, who are responsible for these overblown headlines? It is difficult to answer because a lot of news reports these days are either attributed to multiple writers or are written anonymously.
In the editing process, the sub-editors are supposed to revise the primary news’ articles. If this isn’t done, then it is possible for headlines to deliberately mislead the reader about the content.
Lee Ho-gun, an SBS reporter, said "It is important to grab the readers’ attention; it is not a good idea to use dull headlines, though. But, on the other hand, it is not right to distort the true facts by using overblown captions.” And he added: "readers need to change as well. An article’s interpretation can be influenced by the reader’s expectation for exotic content.”
Some articles which cite a specific brand name can also cause problems. In a newspaper, there are legal regulations that ascribe specific spaces for advertisements. But, conversely, the internet news doesn’t have such advertisement regulations. Therefore, normal articles and advertising articles are mixed up. Reporter Lee ? who has reported before on advertisement articles ? was concerned about how such a conflation may confuse subscribers about what is fact and what is advertisement.
Are advertisements in the newspaper believable? Most people might have some embarrassing memories about mistaking an advertisement for a ‘news’ article. This has become all the more confusing now that advertisements are made to look like a normal piece of news. This new phenomenon is called an “advertorial.” Many people are beginning to wonder about the differences between an advertorial and an advertising article, especially as the former looks similar to write-ups and then are placed side-by-side with the proper news. However, the purpose of these placements is to advertise a product and not to tell the news.
The biggest problem of advertorials is that people do not realize that they are reading an advertisement. Although an advertorial is placed in the advertisement section, it follows the format of a traditional news page.
“A company desperate to sell its products is persuaded by advertisers. In turn, advertisers are also looking for an effective advertising method, such as the advertorial. This is the reason why they use advertorials," Jang Ha-youg, a prof. from the Journalism department at DU, said.
Although there is such an institution as the Korea Advertising Review Board (KARB), a kind of media watchdog, it doesn’t possess any legal authority to enforce the law. Prof. Jang said: " We need a proper public ombudsman to monitor what is going on here.”
Using exaggerated headlines, conflating real news with advertorials, may create problems in the future. If this trend continues to rise, the public distrust of the media, its suspicion on journalistic integrity, will grow and grow. As organs of public opinion carrying social events in objective ways, they must remember to deliver correct information. Their role is not to deceive, but to enlighten the readership.
Bak Je-jun Post reporter
Bak Je-jun firstname.lastname@example.org
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