If you can remember way, way back on August 25th of 2011, ESPN ran a story titled “What if Michael Vick Were White?“. The title and accompanying picture, more so than the content of the article, caused quite a stir in the online world of sports journalism.
But what was the big deal?
The article was written by an author who goes by the name of Toure’. My interpretation is that he’s trying to address a commonly asked question about how race plays a factor in one’s upbringing as well as how the eyes of the law treats differences in skin color.
Toure’ really boils it down to a nature vs. nurture subtext but basically concedes that if Vick were born into a white family, he never would have been introduced to dog fighting. He also believes that a white person would have suffered the same consequences for the same crime.
Ultimately, the content of the article was well conceived and well written. This is not what the real fuss was about.
The issue with the article was two things: How ESPN titled it and digitally photo-shopped a picture of Michael Vick as a white person.
The overwhelming reaction to the article was negative, and this was unfortunate for the author. ESPN decided to make the title “shocking” or “controversial” in order to grab attention and readership.
Well, it worked. The picture they added had the perfect “shock and awe” value to go along with the title as well.
Just like in the world of real estate where the top three rules are “location, location, location”, in online journalism (especially) the top three rules are “attention, attention, attention.” ESPN grabbed your attention with a controversial title and picture, nothing more, nothing less.
It did an injustice to the actual article and stole the thunder right out from under the author. However sleazy you may think ESPN was about this ordeal, they did what they thought was best for their product…get people talking about it.
You may have heard the saying: “any publicity is good publicity.” Well, that’s exactly the case here. ESPN created a buzz, albeit a negative one, that got people reading their product.
At the end of the day, we all know that contemplating what would have happened to Vick if he were white is just a waste of time. I mean, who cares? As Toure’ admits, it’s something we’ll never know so why bother even speculating it?
In all honesty, I found the headline and picture of that article kind of humorous. My immediate reaction was not one of taking issue but rather something like “Hey, that’s pretty funny. I know they’re just being attention seeking but it’s entertaining nonetheless.”
Maybe I have a crazy sense of humor or maybe I’m just used to these kinds of things by now. I didn’t have a problem with any of it after I actually read the article.
Had the article been harping on race and tried to say that if Vick were white he wouldn’t have received the same punishment, I would have taken issue with it.
But too many people fail to realize what things are really about. They never bother to dig a little deeper or give an effort to try and fully understand intentions. They see a headline and picture and react to that rather than what the true intended message is meant to be.
A word of advice for online news readers: Don’t let merely a headline dictate how you feel about a given article. A headline is only meant to grab your attention to get you to read the story. If you feel the content of the article has merit or not, let that be your guide.
Don’t judge a book by the cover, right? On the Internet, a headline is the cover so you shouldn’t rush to judgement before reading and interpreting the author’s intent.