by Kim Niemi
Billy Joel knows what he’s talking about. But “A Matter of Trust,” isn’t just a great song title and hook, it’s the guiding principle behind all commercial endeavors, and these days that translates across social media platforms. Trust is everything to consumers, and breaking that trust is a form of social sabotage.
That’s why it’s always disheartening to see any company or news outlet trying to benefit from an outright lie. Here’s one of yesterday’s headlines on Gawker: “Malaysia Airlines Broke Crash News to Families Via Text.”
Wow, Malaysia Airlines… that’s abhorrent. Or it would be, if it were true.
The headline gives way to an article that continues to paint Malaysia Airlines as a callous entity with no regard for the families of the ill-fated passengers of Flight 370. Then at the very end, we learn that Malaysia Airlines, already taking heat over this misconception, has clarified that SMS was only part of an arsenal of outreach methods, and that all families were notified in person or by phone prior to the text.
But how many people do you think read that far? It’s not uncommon in cyberspace for people to share a piece of “news” based purely on a sensationalistic title. Gawker, of all sites, would know that. Which makes it extra crappy of them to try and inflame an already sensitive situation with a half-truth. (Meanwhile, we’ll talk about the dangers of sharing/spouting off an opinion based on mere headlines another day.)
Gawker’s own “About” video has both George Stephanopoulos and Alex Trebek calling it a gossip site, but this still feels a bit over the line. Remember last week when we talked about not inciting a riot? This is what we meant. The article is a non-story trying to capitalize on a tragedy.
While many of Gawker’s regular readers may not notice or care, you can be sure there are plenty who will hold this kind of tabloid trick against them. And they'll be less likely to fall for Gawker’s sensational headlines going forward - and less clicks WILL have an impact eventually. Yes, even for a "gossip" site.
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