Monday, September 13, 2010

Take your headlines with a grain of salt

Earlier this week Time reported that Kosuke Tsuneoka, a kidnapped Japanese journalist, was freed thanks to Twitter. It sounds really good, but after reading several reports, I didn't see the connection. Sure, Mr. Tsuneoka did manage to get a message out by tricking his captors into letting him use Twitter - to show them how to use it. He was freed a few days later, but no one can actually show a connection. I finally came across a story on Newser that admitted as much.

It was a good headline, all the variations of it: "How Twitter helped free a hostage," "Journalist tricks captors with Twitter," etc. But it didn't have anything to do with the real story, which amounted to, "Muslim journalist freed after five months captivity."

The funny thing is, there are probably true stories out there, if anyone looked hard enough. But they aren't stories about (Muslim) Japanese journalists who tricked their ignorant (not really) Taliban captors into letting them send out a Twitter message. At least the part about the Twitter message was real. But did it really call for such sensationalist headlines that only undermine the reputations of the sites that use them?