Keller @ Large: Using Fear In Headlines To Get Attention Is Wrong

BOSTON (CBS) — Browsing through the internet yesterday for something interesting to talk about with you, I saw a headline on the CNN website that caught my eye: THE HIDDEN DANGER OF GRILLING OUT.

Oh my. What could that possibly be? Exploding propane tanks? Carcinogens in charcoal smoke?Terrorists lurking under the grill hood, just waiting for their chance to burst out and impose sharia law on your cookout?

None of the above.

It turned out to be an article about wire grill brush bristles that break off during the grill-scraping process and then get lodged in the next burger you make.

Oh, the horror! Help!

…But actually, wait a second.

Three paragraphs in, we learn that this is “not a very common occurrence.” A bit further on we read that researchers estimate a total of about 1,700 grill brush injuries over a 12 year period, an average of about 130 a year.

The numbers “are not huge,” says one of the researchers, which turns out to be an understatement when we get to the very end of the article, where we find that “grill brush injuries are less common than swallowing a fish or chicken bone, or children swallowing a coin or battery.”

In other words, there is almost no chance of you or a loved one being injured by a grill brush bristle in your sausage.

Let’s face it, we live in a culture where it seems everyone from researchers to politicians to headline-writers is trying to scare the daylights out of us for, often, no good reason.

It may get votes and publicity to do so, but it’s wrong and obnoxious.

Please, guilty parties, cut it out–because as you can see, it’s making me bristle.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

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Comments

One Comment

  1. Jon…If you follow any television news outlet, including the station where you work and the network with which it is affiliated, you ill notice the ubiquity of the breathless “breaking news” technique of garnering the viewer attention. The absolute BEST…or is it worst…example of this phony hype is Wolf Blitzer of CNN.

    Newspapers have long used the screamer headline to attract attention…Two that I still view fondly as absolutely useless by funny nonetheless were from tabloids… I think it was the NY Daily News reported on a rape with the headline “Nut Screws and Bolts” and the National Inquirer came up with “Snake Swallows Lightbulb; Has Bright Idea”.

    Is it any surprise in this day and age of visceral, not to mention viscous, hatred of the political opposition that the headline and screamer are the weapon of choice to move the needle?

    Any while you may be arguing from a step back from the ledge, are you going to be capable of keeping YOUR station and network from the inappropriate.

    I loath the word “weaponize” about as much as I loath the pompous “utilize”, but isn’t the Fourth Estate “weaponizing” their reporting of “fact” by inserting far more opinion and self-righteous judgement into their work than they do “fact”?

    The reversal of this trend is best accomplished with the least pain by correcting one’s own actions and working to move yourself and your colleagues back from the edge of the cliff.

    I welcome your return to responsible journalism, however temporary it might be. I urge you to be come a far more vocal participant in the movement to restore control and credibility to the Fourth Estate, its participants, and its product.

  2. Steve Stein says:

    “a grill brush bristle in your sausage”
    OW!
    Oh, it’s not a euphemism. Still, ow!

  3. Are you calling me, Steve? :D

  4. Alan B Flood says:

    Jon, does this mean you will tone down your scare tactics about current president? or whoever runs from the right side of center in any state election or even federal? Or will you continue to lead with your smirkie facial expressions and try to use body language to scare people. You have done it with politics, driving in snow, how to use a snow thrower, why a Boston sports team is not doing good or how great they art? You are the proverbial pot calling the kettle black and you will not change because you believe you are the end all to the where all. Go back to doing movie reviews – maybe getting back to your roots will make you realize how obnoxious you can be at times.

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