Back in 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Nikolas Cruz murdered seventeen young students and wounded seventeen others while the school’s resource officer, Scot Peterson, hid. A news story recently declared Scot Peterson has been reinstated and that part of the misleading headline is true, what isn’t is the picture of the Broward County Sheriff who announced it. The difference being that the sheriff pictured is a black man and Scot Peterson is a white man.
It’s entirely possible the person who chose to include the picture didn’t intend it to be misleading but there is no doubt it is just that. The picture presumably comes from the press conference in which Scot Peterson was reinstated but it seems pretty clear to me that posting a picture of someone who is not the primary person in the story is misleading at the least.
We live in an age where information is at our fingertips and those with particular agendas take advantage of this fact by putting out misleading information, twisted words, and simple lies in order to further their perceived goals. When we click on such stories, we help spread the misinformation.
I guarantee you right now, because of that picture, people think the person depicted is, in fact, Scot Peterson. I am also certain, for many people, opinions on his reinstatement is dependent on the color of his skin. If you were to show the headline with the accompanying image to people, some would demand he not be reinstated while others would insist upon doing so. However, if a picture of the real Scot Peterson was shown a percentage of those people would give the opposite answer. That’s how powerful a picture can be and that’s why it’s a Misleading Headline.
In this world of disinformation, it’s impossible to stop others from spreading their lies but you can do your best to tell the truth and point out Misleading Headlines where you can. That’s what I try to do.