The Rise of Clickbait and the Fall of Journalism

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Journalism is dead.

If nothing else, this past dumpster fire of an election cycle proved it. News outlets on the left were all too happy to fabricate the good qualities of Hillary Clinton while disingenuously denying or refusing to acknowledge anything negative about her. Or when something negative is brought up, the only comeback they have is “Yeah, but Trump!” This wasn’t limited to the left. News outlets on the right – most notably Breitbart and Fox News – did the exact same thing regarding Trump. The truth is that they were both equally terrible, but almost no one was willing to acknowledge that.

Now, this is Cinema Skwad and we aren’t here to talk about politics. We’re here to talk about movies, geek culture and the entertainment industry in general. The truly sad thing is that the lack of journalistic integrity isn’t limited to the murky world of politics. Yellow journalism has seeped into the very core of the entertainment world as well.

Everywhere you go on social media there are many, many entertainment news outlets that employ a device known as the “clickbait title.” Usually, the title will actually reflect the subject of the article at hand – albeit twisted and dishonestly – but there are also a great many times that the title has little to nothing to do with the content of the article. The object is to get you to click on the article, hoping beyond hope to get some juicy little nugget, but in the end all you’re left with is a three to five-minute time deficit that you’ll never get back; and a lot of the time you feel like you’d happily give up your wife to Mephisto to get those precious moments back.

Now, I completely understand the need for a website to entice readers to click on their articles. That’s how sites like this one are able to generate revenue, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, the way some sites are doing it is downright shameful and I feel remiss if I don’t call them out on it because here at Cinema Skwad the idea of journalistic integrity means something. We were literally founded on that ideal.

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Anyone with a lick of sense would know that something is wrong with the above headline from comicbook.com. If you click on the article (please don’t), you will read some of the most mindless and nonsensical garbage on the internet. Of course the Inhumans series won’t have a profound effect on the film side of the MCU, just as “Daredevil” had no effect, “Jessica Jones” had no effect, “Luke Cage” had no effect and Marvel’s flagship series “Agents of SHIELD” has had no effect. The films don’t even acknowledge the existence of the television content. Marvel TV is an honorary part of Marvel’s shared cinematic universe at best. Stop wasting your readers’ time, comicbook.com.

Fret not, fearless readers, the next article is much worse.

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While the Inhumans article is just a bunch of made up nonsense to fill space, the Michael Shannon headline is blatantly misleading.

“Batman v Superman” is a hot button topic for a lot of people. There are those who believe vehemently that the movie was terrible, and there are a great number of people who think it was wonderful. And neither side can seem to acknowledge the validity of the other side’s existence.

Now, while it is true that Michael Shannon did fall asleep during the movie, if you read what Michael Shannon actually said you’ll see that it had nothing to do with the film’s quality one way or another.

Shannon states – quite matter-of-factly – that he was tired, he was watching the film on an airplane, and he fell asleep from sheer exhaustion. He also states that he hasn’t had the opportunity to actually sit down and watch the film. Now, there are a great many headlines they could have legitimately attached to this story – personally, I would have called it “Michael Shannon’s Embarrassing ‘Batman v Superman’ Story – but the one they went with was dishonest and intentionally misleading.

And intellectual dishonesty isn’t limited to this one instance.

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Now, anyone who knows Stan Lee knows that he has a big imagination. I mean, he single-handedly created the entire Marvel Universe – and, of course, by single–handedly I mean with the help of many talented artists.

Stan’s penchant for being colorful doesn’t stop in his writing room, or wherever he creates his masterpiece characters. He’s colorful in his every day engagements and interviews as well. The man is simply larger than life.

Now, again, if you read Stan’s actual comments he’s clearly pulling the interviewer’s leg. “Doctor Doom has never committed a crime,” he rationalized. “All he wants to do is take over the world.  I mean, that isn’t illegal.”

Well, first of all Stan, it kind of is. Did Stan say that Doctor Doom isn’t a villain? Actually, no. He said he shouldn’t be considered a villain. He also cited Doctor Doom as his favorite villain and besides that, he was clearly joking. You know what should be illegal, though? Intentionally misleading your audience for page views.

**Author’s Note: Stan Lee quotes are paraphrased**

Now, don’t get me wrong. Comicbook.com isn’t all bad and they are far from the only site that engages in this (they just happen to be the only one we’re picking on because their articles just happened to be all over my Facebook newsfeed). Comic Book Resources is guilty, Moviepilot is the king of doing this crap (sorry, Tisha.  You’re great) and scores of other geek culture sites are guilty of it.

In the interest of fairness, here’s one comicbook.com got right.

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No sensationalism, no dishonesty or intentional misleading of their audience; just a clear-cut and straightforward news story. And guess what? It has many, many more shares than the clickbaity articles.

Maybe the audience does appreciate when you don’t lie to them after all.

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