Monday, April 29, 2013

An awful headline

Here's a little case study from last week.

"Brown Student Misidentified as Boston Bomber Found Dead in River", in Gawker.

The headline leads us to believe that someone thought the student (Sunil Tripathi) was one of the Boston bombers, and took it upon themselves to kill him.

The real story is that Sunil Tripathi had been missing for a month, and had likely commit suicide before the Boston bombings even occurred.  It seems that Redditors accused him of being one of the bombers, and harassed his family, until the police finally identified the real bombers.  At that point, the Reddit general manager apologized for Reddit's role.  Later, his body was found in the river, where it was so decomposed that they needed to identify him by dental records.

In short, the Redditors in question weren't guilty of inciting violence, they were just guilty of harassing a bereaved family.

Here are a few more examples:

"Student, Sunil Tripathi, wrongly tied to Boston bombings found dead"
"Social media stigma can last a lifetime or, in Sunil Tripathi's case, end in tragedy"

It seems that it is not the articles themselves that are misleading, just the headlines.  However, the blame does not lie entirely with the headline writers.  When I searched for "Sunil Tripathi", most headlines were fine.  But when I looked at Facebook, only the articles with misleading headlines were linked.  For shame.