News headlines not always reliable, but often are fun

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Headlines are intended to entice us to read the article. Sometimes they evoke fear. This is an example of a catchy, a bit misleading, yet cute headline.

It doesn’t take much time to learn how headlines work, that the best ones are short, direct, and attract the attention of the reader. I recently ran across one such headline: ‘Death Star’ Gamma-Ray Gun Pointed Straight at Earth.

There are some aspects of this headline that make it great, some that make it not-so-great. From the first words, one notices the clear reference to Star Wars and the “Death Star” built by the Empire. After conjuring up the fear associated with the destructive power of the Empire’s planet-destroying battle station, the headline warns the reader that the Earth is a target. The result is that readers will want to learn what this means, whether the planet will face a fate similar to that of Alderaan or if Earth is safe. These are some of the aspects that make this a great headline.

Despite its journalistic greatness, the headline is also not-so-great. When one reads the article, one learns some interesting facts:

  1. The star’s discoverer, Sydney (Australia) University astronomer Peter Tuthill, is “uncertain whether Earth is precisely on WR104’s [the star that will supernova] axis.” In short, Earth may not be in the line of fire and may be far away from any danger.
  2. There is likely plenty of time–hundreds of centuries–to find a solution, should one be needed. Tuthill says, “we probably have hundreds of thousands of years before it blows, so we have plenty of time to come up with some answers.” In other words, we likely have lots and lots of time, so there’s no real danger to our lives now or in the near (or distant) future.

As a result of these two discoveries, this headline is not-so-great because it causes the reader to fear, or maybe even panic, when no such fear is warranted. However, I would expect end-times preachers to do what I see happen all the time: latch on to this news as evidence that the world is going to end soon. There are some preachers who will read the headlines to you, not read the story to the audience, then offer somber news based on that headline. To all this I offer these words of caution:

First, nobody knows when the end will come or when Jesus will return. Second, headlines are never a reliable way to know what the article states since they are not meant to give news, but attract readers (as shown with this article). Third, if believers spent more time worrying about serving their God out of love and less time looking for the next new sign of the end, then they will find they are the good servants who are ready when Jesus returns. Fourth, the earth will not be destroyed, but, more likely, reformed–there will be no “end of the earth,” but only the end of the earth bound up in sin. Fifth, this star is one more instance that shows the wonder, beauty, and majesty of the creative work of God.

In short, this article is interesting, and there is even a nice looking animated image of the star’s movement, but there is nothing to fear.

About John L. Rothra
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