I thought I knew what click bait was. I thought it was that stuff you click on when you know better, like the links that say so-and-so looked great in the past, but you'd be amazed at how she looks now. You click, there's little content, lots of ads, and several pages to click through. These are promoted article-like ads designed to get you to click and see a very sparse article with many photos and opportunities to click more. To me, that's click bait.
With a president who calls legitimate news sources fake news, I guess it was only a matter of time before click bait was misused, too. I was recently talking to a friend who likes pit bulls, and I told her about the pit bull article I'd written. She said I was all wrong, and that dog bites are not more prevalent among those dogs, but they make the news more often. I said that bites are irrelevant, to some extent, because death or mauling tend to occur more with pit bulls than with any other breed. I used the evidence of all the news reports I'd seen since moving to Jacksonville that involved vicious bites or deaths as the result of specifically pit bull bites. She claimed it was all click bait, and that's what news is all about.
I like talking to her because I can get a sense of how someone with differing political opinions sees the world. She has started to see any news story as click bait, and I don't totally blame her. The nightly news has lots of car accidents, crime, and scandal to report. Salacious material that probably gets people to read more or tune in. Problems presented without solutions. But my point was that any story about a child getting mauled by dogs is a good one for the news, so why would the news suppress stories about golden retrievers mauling kids? She believes the news has an agenda, and not just about dogs, reporting real and fake news in order to support that agenda.
Like fake news, click bait is just a name-calling tactic. I did real research for my article about the dogs. Even the supporters of the dogs never claimed pit bulls don't maul or kill people and other animals. They just claim that it's our right to own the dogs, and bad owners cause the bad behavior. So the facts aren't in dispute, at least when it comes to percentage of deaths or hospital visits related to pit bulls related to percentage of these dogs in America. Plus, many reporting agencies don't even release the type of dog, possibly in an attempt to protect the breed.
Facts can be manipulated. I understand that. I do that when I'm marketing, if I can. Add a little opinion to the facts in order to persuade. Even when I'm writing an article like this, I might twist and shape in order to get the reader to agree. And even legitimate news organizations can do this, mostly by deciding what to report and where to put the articles. But calling real journalism fake news or click bait is a dangerous accusation. Both imply the news organizations are doing the opposite of the job entrusted to them, and I won't say that is what's happening. That leads to millions of people with their heads in the sand, only coming up to inhale opinions with which they agree, presented as an alternative to the fake news and click bait used by mainstream media.