By now, we all already know that social media is ripe with bad headlines from fake news sites that somehow manage to be shared time and time again, despite coming from pages with domains like “”  The media has decided to make these fake news distributors this week’s pariah, faulting them for Hillary Clinton losing the election and putting pressure on internet companies like Facebook and Google to somehow put a stop to it.  There’s no question that fake news sites are out there and are a problem, but blaming them for how misinformed the American people have become is akin to blaming assault weapons for a knife attack: it might not be accurate, but it’ll draw some clicks.

I woke up this morning with an e-mail waiting for me about sourcing.  The SOFREP editorial team takes the legitimacy of the sources we use very seriously – it’s our job to keep our readers well informed – which means using a continuously critical eye when seeking news sites that support our claims or positions.  It’s precisely because of e-mails like these that I enjoy working here: at no point did the editor that sent the e-mail bring up Search Engine Optimization or click-counters – instead, the emphasis was entirely on the quality of the content we provide our readership.  SOFREP’s methodology is to produce quality, truthful news and view points – then let that quality draw in readers.

Although I’ve never met Brandon Webb in person to know what kind of car he drives, I’m certain that it could be a nicer one if he had chosen to make SOFREP about sensational news rather than the truth.  He and the editorial team, however, value their credibility over profitability, and that’s something I’ve found to be rare in any workplace, but particularly in contemporary journalism.  In one of my many failed attempts to finish my bachelor’s degree (tenth time was the charm!) I spent a year studying journalism – only to drop out as I came to understand the reality of industry was, for lack of a better term, dishonest.  It’s a sobering realization I’m reminded of daily as I scroll through the dozen news sites I frequent each morning.

This all brings me to the real problem facing the American news consumer today, and it isn’t fake news sites: it’s misleading news shared by seemingly reputable ones.  For the sake of brevity, I’m going to use science as one example, but the issue encompasses all categories of news.

Major news outlets know that you likely won’t read most articles, but they need to do something to encourage you to click on their stories.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, we writers have electric bills and cell phone payments like anyone else and most advertising revenue is based on clicks, but things took a turn when news outlets began realizing there were certain ways they could title stories that would encourage us to click on them.

When you think click bait, you usually think of sites like Buzzfeed that use language like “you won’t believe what happens next!” in their titles to try to drag a click out of you, but a more dangerous form of click bait comes in a far more subtle manner.  Here’s a great example:

Top to bottom: Men’s Fitness, Health Aim, Express


Multiple news sites reported on the same chocolate based study with headlines suggesting chocolate does everything from having a “magical effect on the brain” to improving your libido.  Some even suggest they’ll break down exactly how and why chocolate is such an incredible cure-all for what ails you… but if you actually read the articles to the end, most of them point out that the study didn’t specify the kind of chocolate, the amount of chocolate, or even how the chocolate actually effects the human brain.  The scientist who ran the study even goes so far as to say so in an article called, “The Magical Thing Eating Chocolate Does to Your Brain”: