Editors Advised Against Creating Panic Through Headlines

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By: MATTHEW UKACHUNWA,  Lagos
Editors have been advised to avoid casting panic-causing and confusing headlines that may lead readers into making wrong decisions or taking wrong actions.

Mr. Segun Aribike, former Editor-In-Chief of News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) said this while speaking on the dangers inherent in panic-prone headlines, with emphasis on Ebola outbreak of 2014.

“While I understand why we cast the headlines the way we do, we should not put fear in the citizenry such that it leads them to do stupid things.

“While headlines such as ‘Ebola Kills 50’ may help sell the newspaper, it may also lead to panic among the populace, Aribike stated.

He recollected how during the 2014 Ebola disease epidemic, people out of fear and ignorance started consuming salt in large quantities which resulted to serious health problems.

Such situations, he declared, create unique challenges for media organizations’ headline casters when casting headlines.

“Don’t cast headlines that suggest there is no hope for survival,” the ex-NAN editorial head counseled, stressing:  “Bear in mind that epidemics challenge the indomitable human spirit.”

He also illustrated rules of headline writing, citing the use of punctuation marks as an example. “Headline punctuation is normal with two significant exceptions:  Use periods/full stops for abbreviations only and use single quotes where you would have used double quotes in a story,” he stressed.  “Use present tense mostly in headline writing  Keep it simple and direct.”

 

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