Tetmeyer: Bring back honest titles

Columnist Grant Tetmeyer criticizes clickbait titles in journalism. 

Grant Tetmeyer

Editor’s Note: The following column is a satire piece.

There has been an influx of dishonest, misleading and just downright abhorrent reporting over the past few years. The days of simple journalistic integrity have finally come to pass, leaving way for sensationalism and click bait. It was reported that German pentathlon coach Kim Raisner was removed from the Olympic Games after punching a horse, and with the title “German Modern Pentathlon Coach Disqualified For Punching A Horse.” This is simply false and it needs to stop. 

If you do any digging into this story, as I did, you will find the broadcast video that captured the incident, and in the video, you see no punch. You see a woman lightly hitting a horse. These are very distinct differences. A punch is a fully loaded, cocked fist extended with extreme force at something. A hit is anything consisting of any lower grade expression of force with a fist or object. And what was captured was a light hit. 

This is just disgusting. To pump up a title is just too far. We have all been fine with blatant bias reporting for most major news networks with political agendas, but we didn’t care because the title was smartly worded so that it was long form truthful. But to commit to a title that intentionally makes you think that a horse just got its world rocked by this angry Germanic woman half its size. What I saw was a spooked horse that got just a light smack on the butt because it wasn’t listening to the rider. 

There were so many better ways that this story could have been titled that would have been closer to the truth. Changing punch to striking or hitting is the easiest and most efficient way to do so. Even the NPR article that had featured this botched title stated that the action was a “light hit” performed by Raisner. The article itself doesn’t even qualify it as a punch itself. Now articles like this have inspired a review of the sport and a call to revisit the welfare of the animals in the event as well as help protect riders and explain the sport. But none of this worthwhile work means anything if you mislabeled a simple hit as a specific punch.  

This is not something to be taken lightly. The degradation of journalistic titles is one of our most pressing issues right now, up there with the expanding influence of the Taliban, crippling political gridlock and toxic medical misinformation that threatens to prolong a global pandemic and even threatens to crash our fragile healthcare system. But since we don’t seem to want to really do anything about any of the later points, this is at least something easy to achieve right?