Beware of sensational headlines. For example, today’s Huffington Post features an article with the front page headline of “Poll: Huge Number of American Want Christianity as State Religion.” However, when you follow the link, the headline and story change tone: “Christianity as State Religion Supported by One-Third of Americans, Poll Finds.” That same headline could be rewritten to say that two-thirds of Americans reject Christianity as a state religion.
I often see a similar problem in writing about careers and jobs. Simple claims, often negative news, takes on significance because they are reposted from website to website. For example, about a year ago there was a meme that said you would not be hired unless you are currently employed. Some employers posted a help wanted ads that said only currently employed workers should apply. Only a few companies did this. The megaphone power of the Internet turned this minor problem into reality for many people who were unemployed.
What should we do? Test all claims that seem too easy to believe. When clients brought up the example of companies only hiring people who were employed, I’d ask them to put themselves in the employer’s position. If two candidates are equally (or even similarly) qualified, would you hire someone who is employed or unemployed? Most employers would go with the unemployed candidate because that person would be cheaper. Some who is employed is able to negotiate and even say no. The widely posted claim made no sense.
Media loves simple, scary stories. As the two examples above show, they often are not true. Yes, a third of Americans might want a national religion, but a third is not even close to a majority. Yes, a few employers may have wanted to hire people who are currently employed. But, again, it’s not logical to assume most employers would do this. Whenever you’re faced with the scary headline, test its claim. Usually you’ll find the claim is overblown, if not totally false.