Journalism in this era of so much competition is half advertising and half news. For our cause, I don’t know that it matters if only 32% of the public trust news media since it’s the advertising half (i.e., sensational headlines) that does the damage and it comes so quickly in so many forms. Remember the days of subliminal ads appearing before a movie (not Netflix or HBO but in a real movie theater)?
The desk editor isn’t likely the one who would be willing to give up the swanky headlines but a well crafted appeal to the publisher or the owner of a few choice outlets might be a step in the right direction. Or better yet, being invited to a publishers conference to discuss how harmful suck titles can be. If just a few publishers could understand the ridiculousness of some offenses maybe we could begin to see stories from the other perspective. A good place to start might be public television/radio and a special series on debunking stereotypes and defining offenses. Being called a “child molester” is scary but if the public could begin to understand how so many seemingly innocuous scenarios could garner such a title they may slowly begin to soften.
Of course, then there is the option for a libel suit but I suspect the coffers wouldn’t support that.