With the gradual decline in print media
subscription, Nigeria’s mainstream media houses
are now using misleading headlines, also known
as click baits, in a bid to direct traffic to their
websites. It is a strange development that
portends danger for professionalism and ethical
For a typical Nigerian the definition is clear and
simple. The organisation with printed version is
called ‘a media’ / ‘a newspaper’ / ‘press’, often with
the word ‘legacy’. An internet only company is
called a ‘blog’, often with a negative tone.
However, seveal episodes at the end of last week
ruined the existing paradigm completely.
the media was agog with
a news headline carried by the major legacy media
like Vanguard, Punch and Tribune.
The headline that got people talking is “Buhari
Noting how much rumours have trailed the health
condition of the president of Nigeria, Muhammadu
Buhari, an average inquisitive person would click
on this headline to read more and this is where it
With the gradual decline in print media subscription, Nigeria’s mainstream media houses are now using misleading headlines
There is absolutely nothing in the news that can be
traced to President Buhari’s health condition, the
news rather is about a constructive surgery done
for a toddler who lost his penis to a physical
abuse by his step-mother in 2016.
After several backlashes from readers who did not
find being deceived by media houses funny,
ThePunch eventually changed their headline, while
Vanguard and Tribune are still holding on to theirs.
Due to backlashes from readers, Punch eventually changed their headline
Apparently, with the gradual death of print media,
newspapers are turning to their online platforms to
drive traffic and keep their businesses afloat.
With the rumours trailing President Muhammadu’s
health, it is easy to get anyone’s attention with his
However, it is saddening that respectable media
houses have found an easier but totally unethical
way of directing traffic to their websites by
sensationalising news and in some cases
presenting misleading headlines and absolutely
Effects of fake or misleading headlines on readers
Sometimes people do not read beyond the
headlines and they pick their fact from it and run
with it. In situations where headlines are untrue,
journalists run the risk of feeding the society fake
and unsafe information.
Sometimes people do not read beyond headlines
and this can be disastrous
There have been several other cases of
irresponsible journalism in the media.
In some sad cases, presentation of fake news have aided in
inciting an already worrisome situations like tribal and religion crises.
Facebook/Google clamp down on fake news
After the United States presidential election,
Facebook was faced with heavy criticisms with
people accusing the platform of allowing unverified
and fake news to spread, thereby changing people’
s perception and possibly the outcome of the US
After these backlashes, Facebook’s founder and
CEO Mark Zuckerberg has promised to do more to
check fake and misleading news being spread
The clamp down has already started on Facebook.
Just like Google, the social media #1 has started
blocking fake news website from its ad network.
However, African media are unlikely to feel this
effect soon. Facebook is more focused on the
‘developed’ world. At the same time, the message
is clear: generating revenue from fake news will be
made impossible pretty soon.
The two internet
giants are working hard every day to create a safe
and user-friendly environment every day.So,
ignoring the readers and caring only for clicks is
really-really bad tactics in the long term.
One can only hope that this measure taken by
Facebook and Google will curtail the nuisance of
presenting fake and misleading headlines, an act
which is spreading like wildfire among Nigerian
online news site.