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Toronto Star Public Editor: Jeopardy! headline a case study on need to clearly label opinion content

Headline presented Alex Trebek’s feelings for big winner as fact, when it was actually the columnist’s own view. Continue Reading Toronto Star Public Editor: Jeopardy! headline a case study on need to clearly label opinion content

The category: Media trust. Today’s daily double clue: Opinion, not fact.

The correct response? What is this Toronto Star headline: “Alex Trebek can’t wait for rogue winner to lose.”

Indeed, that headline, published in the Star Monday on Johanna Schneller’s “What I’m Watching” column about Jeopardy! multi-time winner Austin Rogers, is not a fact. The headline should not have stated it as such. We have now amended this online and published a correction.

While the subject matter is literally trivia, this is an example of bigger questions about ongoing issues in the Star of not making a clear distinction between opinion and fact, as journalistic principles and the Star’s own policies demand. As part of its ongoing trust initiative, the Star is moving forward to provide clear signposts to readers about whether they are reading news, analysis or opinion on all the platforms on which the Star publishes. I will write much more about this in coming weeks as these important measures come into effect.

The Jeopardy! column and its problematic headline provides somewhat of a case study on confusion between news and opinion and the need to clearly label opinion content so readers understand what is verified information and what is someone’s view.

Headlines in the Star generally should not express opinions unless they appear on articles published on clearly labelled opinion pages, or contain some wording or label to make clear to readers that the headline statement is not a verified fact.

We corrected the Jeopardy! headline because it did not signal to readers that the statement that Trebek “can’t wait” for Rogers to lose represents the opinion expressed in the column by the columnist. Readers who came upon the headline — particularly as it first appeared on the home page of the Star’s website — cannot be faulted for reading this as a statement of fact. It is unclear what exactly it is.

Continue reading this story on the Toronto Star website, where it was first published.