How a Headline Can Send a Fan Base into an Uproar

Christian Petersen

A look at how headlines have become a major point of contention among Phoenix Coyotes fans on the internet.

Headlines are important.

So important, that news can be made simply by the one-sentence that is tweeted, posted, shared, emailed and read. Headlines can be serious or satirical, misleading or complete.

Headlines are designed create a reaction. A reaction that will inform readers just enough to pique their curiosity to learn more. But on occasion, a headline can create a narrative or reaction that is not changed by the actual article below, even if more information is introduced. So is the breaking Phoenix Coyotes news of July 31, 2013.

An uproar began following a Phoenix Business Journal article citing two unnamed sources that said, quoted from the article, "some financing for the sale has either not been finalized or has dropped out of the deal," and the subsequent response by RSE's Daryl Jones:

Local and national headlines ranged from Arizona Sports 620's, "Report: RSE may not finalize Coyotes deal" to Pro Hockey Talk's, "Report: New Coyotes buyers' finances being questioned." Both sending some Coyotes fans into a rage-filled internet frenzy that saw no winners, only losers.

Passing along news from a legitimate source is not only okay, it's encouraged. Attacking a local or national news outlet for writing an article, that if read thoroughly, proved to be unbiased and informative, about a report is uncalled for.

Many Coyotes fans feel wronged by the media: locally, nationally and internationally. So the initial reaction, of some, to a headline like the ones above, is to respond with vitriolic defensiveness.

What is the source of the anger? Is it the article itself? That would be a hard point to make as the articles from the major news sources include the very same tweet that is embedded in this article, as well as information form Fox Sports Arizona's Craig Morgan. The articles mention all sides of the story including multiple reports refuting the PBJ story.

The source of anger is in the headline.

Are the headlines factually inaccurate? No. Do the headlines accurately represent that the following news is from one report? Yes. So the source of the anger has to be one thing: people feel the headlines are misleading. But are they?

The PBJ's headline is not misleading, it accurately reflects the information in the story at publishing time. Pro Hockey Talk's headline is not misleading as it says there is a "report" that the new Coyotes buyers' finances are being questioned. Which is accurate; there is a report that cites two sources "familiar with the Coyotes deal", albeit anonymous, who are doing the questioning.

There are two questions consumers of news must ask: Is it news? And, are all sides accurately represented? Take a look for yourself here and here. Do both stories answer yes to the questions above? I think so.

Yet, responses like this occurred:

"I'm about done with these stations. Their constantly degrading Coyotes coverage is pissing me off."

"...How do you get a job getting paid to make s*** up?"

"Not surprised it is NBCSports. PHX gets no respect."

Everyone has the right to their own opinions, but the Coyotes internet fan base is not so slowly gaining a reputation nationally, rightfully or wrongfully, as being hypersensitive. It is certainly okay to call out journalists for factual inaccuracies or sloppy reporting. But negative news is not by itself, worthy of generating substantial outrage, especially if there is nothing wrong with the way that news is presented.

This editorial is not meant to criticize any individual or group, but to evoke thought and reflection about how to react to initial reports. Attack a story on its merits, facts and presentation. Remember, headlines are not always written by the reporter.

Besides, we will all know the ownership answer for sure by Monday. And as I said on Twitter:

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