Sub-editor pays the penalty for slipping up on basics of click-bait journalism on Rajini report
New Delhi, May 24: When young Naveen Tripathi, a New Delhi-based sub-editor with a popular internet site that is known for hard-hitting investigative news stories like ‘7 reasons why you will not read this story’, found a news report on Tamil film superstar Rajinikanth’s putative entry into politics land on his news desk, he was thrilled.
After all, like most North Indian youngsters Naveen was a big fan of Rajinikanth. Then again, like most North Indians, he had seen not even one Rajinikanth movie in his life. But he knew all the popular, but of course cringe-worthy, ‘Rajini jokes’ that North Indians somehow think to be funny.
So when the news agency report of Rajinikanth’s possible entry into politics flashed on his screen, young Naveen quickly picked up the copy and started rewriting it. (Industry fact: Regular newspapers report. Internet sites report by rewriting what real reporters report. And intelligent VCs fund such ventures).
But his enthusiasm and the high of the occasion seem to have got the better of Naveen as he fatally headlined his rewritten report: “Political plunge: Confused Rajini keeps every one else confused”.
Soon, all hell unsurprisingly broke loose.
Such a revealing headline meant that the readers of the website had to give up on reading the story. The readers of that website generally spend several hours of their day reading a news report and trying to figure out the meaning of its headline.
“It was a headline that obviously revealed what the story contained. Why would I read it any further?” said Spoorthi Pandey, a visitor to the website. (Industry fact: News sites have readers. Neo-news sites have visitors).
The simple and straightforward headline also became a laughing stock for the day on Twitter, as many users poured acidic wit on it. Many memes also started doing the rounds including one of Sunny Leone with the caption: ‘Headlines are not Sunny Leone. They should not reveal anything”.
Another one meme, possibly created by Paresh Rawal, had a pic of sub-editor tied to the front of a jeep and several lethal headlines were pelted at him.
The recoil from the social media sent the top Editors in the website into a flurry of activity. They, taking the initiative in a professional manner, sought unconditional apology upfront for the ‘crisp and clear headline’ and they also assured that such an error will not be repeated.
Later, in a short post on their site, the Editors wrote, “We apologise for allowing the headline ‘Political plunge: Confused Rajini keeps every one else confused’. We sure know it confused the heck out of our readers by being totally clear. As a news site that has sworn to adhere to the highest form of internet journalism, which is to remain totally incomprehensible and silly, we know we had slipped up on this one. But we assure our dear readers that this is an aberration. We promise that we will continue on the sterling standards that we have set for ourselves in being irresponsible and inane”.
Continuing, the post read: “As soon as we found the error we immediately took the story and headline down and replaced it with the much more true-to-type report with a slightly better headline: ‘Enna Rascala! Rajini answers the question that he doesn’t know'”.
The site further redeemed itself with the story that fully captured the moment and zeitgeist of Rajini’s possible political plunge: “The 27 memes that you cannot afford to miss on Rajini“. (And in it was the inevitable one on: “Politics ready to take a plunge into Rajini“).
Further, fixing responsibility for the glaring gaffe, Naveen tripathi was sacked forthwith from his job. “I was handed my termination order immediately and was given a huge sermon about how a good headline should, as opposed to being clear and brief, make anyone click the story and spend a lot of wondering what the heck it is actually”.
“They will possibly give my job to one of the interns who knows where to scour for the best memes on any given topic,” Naveen added.
Meanwhile, we at Crank’s News are not willing to commit the same mistake, we are forthwith changing the headline of this piece to: “How Naveen Tripathi’s headline changed his own headline”.