Competitive Analysis thinking for sensational media headlines

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This article is called Competitive Analysis thinking for sensational media headlines and offers our thoughts on finding the truth within newspaper reports and articles.

Have you noticed the language during Covid, Brexit, the US and UK elections? And the headlines shouting at us are getting more extreme? Words dropped into a sentence to over sensationalise a story.

“Super-gonorrhoea to spread more easily when UK leaves EU”

- Daily Star UK

Headlines designed to cause an emotional response are particularly prevalent in politics. Whichever side you support you are either going to agree or disagree with the sentiment. There are rarely shades of grey, especially with a subject like Brexit. Here are some headline examples:

“Crashing out without a deal” to “Soviet-style control freaks are a threat to our independence”.

“Two thirds of British jobs in manufacturing are dependent on demand from Europe” to “Turkey is going to join the EU and millions of people will flock to the UK”.

“Brexit will lead to Scotland renewing calls for independence” to “Hours from a no-deal”.

And “Brexit delay mayhem”.

Emotional headlines

Now look for the claims the story is presenting. Do any of the text, links and sources provide the data that actually back up any claim? Follow every reference made in the article to find the source data. Ideally, with surveys and claims look for the actual raw data. Take a look at the quotes within the article and the headlines. Did the person quoted actually say what was claimed and, if so, in what context did they say it? Where were they saying it and how were they saying it. What have they since said about the quote and the subject?

Our survey says…

You see this sort of thing in anti-ageing, makeup and hair treatment TV adverts. The advertisers will say that 85% of people asked loved the product. Then they will tell you 76 people were surveyed. Why 76? Why not 100 or 200? The 76 people got them to a reasonable and fair 85% positivity rating. No one is going to believe success figures of 99/100%. This expansion of the truth also goes on within the mainstream media.

  • What is the purpose of the article? Is it just to expose you to an advert?
  • Are they any advertisement associated with the article?
  • Is there any link with the advertising and the article
  • How many adverts are there?

Is there any foundation or support for the conclusions made in the article? If you often read similar articles, are you being targeted? This targeting happens all the time within social media. Ensuring you see interesting things and want you to return. Is the advertising targetting you? Fire up the VPN and see if you can find other sides of the argument.

The writer

When evaluating article findings and in fact, any research, look for tangible evidence. The evidence within the opinions, personal experiences, unsupported assertions, and second-hand reports. Ask yourself if you are analysing your findings. Or the results the researcher wants you to believe. How do you decide what to believe? Answer these questions:

  • Where’s the evidence?
  • What’s the proof?
  • So how do you know that’s true?
  • Why do you think that?
  • Can you prove it?

Any bias?

  • Have the results been reasonably presented and interpreted? Can they justify the conclusions?
  • Is there any information missing?
  • Any signs of confirmation bias? That’s the tendency to find your personal beliefs confirmed by the data.
  • Are you offering your biases based on your personal beliefs or what you want to believe?
  • Do the results and conclusions explain how they collected the data? What statistics were used?

This article was called Competitive Analysis thinking for sensational media headlines and offered our thoughts on finding the truth within newspaper reports and articles.

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