This Prank Proved That Americans Don’t Read Past Headlines

americans don't read past headlinesBy Heather Callaghan

But it may have proven more…

A social media April Fool’s prank spearheaded by NPR in 2014 is – ironically – drawing some reflection. This isn’t one of those frustrating social media psychology tests without the users’ knowledge. It appears to have been a lighthearted joke and a thank you to readers.

NPR posed a question with a link:

Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore?

According to writer Jay Hathaway, commenters squawked:

We totally do, NPR. Shut up. We read all the time. We’re reading your article right now!

Which only proved that they didn’t.

Had they actually gone to the link on the NPR website they wouldn’t have seen a story, but would have seen this message:

npr social media prank

“If you are reading this, please like this post and do not comment on it,” it says.

But the social media post was heavily weighted with response-baggage, many of them paragraphs long, chiding NPR and defending their book diet trying to ward off perceived disapproval. But they didn’t read the “article,” did they? Some circles suggest that only 2 out of 10 people will read past the headline.

Even though it was all in good humor, it actually unwittingly proved a few points – both in the positive and something-to-think-about categories.

Writers already know people do this – it’s the frustration they feel when they visit their story’s post to see if there are discussions, only to see mile-long arguments based on a faulty presumption of the headline. They know the person hasn’t read the article before deciding a belief and that headlines invite rock-throwing. That seems to be par for the Internet course.

But even worse…

Is to see people sharing something as though it’s the gospel, commenting on it and calling for action – when you can clearly gather it’s a completely fabricated satirical headline. Unlike NPR, the satire sites and the malicious, fake websites are not making sure people finally get that it was a joke.  I’ve commented on threads about sources in hopes that the 12,000 people I saw share faulty posts did not throw literal rocks at the groups of people targeted in them. That is to say, please don’t believe the fake church sign that suggests Muslim Americans are about to jihad everyone in the U.S. For starters, have you ever seen a mosque sign?


That same RV shows up behind every church sign – must be one of those “coexist” families.

Yet, there is no shortage of amazing information; and, unfortunately, the nature of the beast requires that catchy headlines be chosen unless the writer was the Stephen King of article authors and just the name could encourage a click. It’s hard for any writer or site to vie for attention. Even then, people often don’t read past the headlines.

This fact merely shows that people have limited amounts of time in their day and there’s nothing wrong with that. The NPR prank might show that people want approval and they want to argue before they know what’s what, but it also highlights that people simply feel crunched for time.

And this is a problem…

imagesIt’s time to prioritize our lives if we want to take information to the next level. It’s hard to delve deeper into understanding when time for reading is spread throughout the day over a phone. Wisdom would require understanding to permeate all areas of our lives. This is difficult but it requires “batching” your time, like what would be effective at work.

Studies overwhelmingly show that multitasking is seriously unhealthy. Yet, we are compelled more and more to engage that way – is this making us more disengaged at life? 


Lastly, are we being compelled only to accept communication in memes, bytes, blips, drips and drabs? Is Idiocracy happening before our eyes?

Unaware of what year it was, Joe wandered the streets desperate for help. But the English language had deteriorated into a hybrid of hillbilly, valleygirl, inner-city slang and various grunts. Joe was able to understand them, but when he spoke in an ordinary voice he sounded pompous and…

If so, we’d be better off taking some time to have deeper discussions or time alone to reflect. It’s impossible to ban together for better changes if we cannot even communicate ideas.

Sensory Overload 

It might time to take charge of our online reading and harness our time, making sure to reconnect with your spirit, family and nature.

Now that you’ve made it this far in the article, you can grab some popcorn and visit our post and see what happens. Tweet-tweet. (We are encouraging comments)

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Heather Callaghan is a natural health blogger and food freedom activist. You can see her work at and Like at Facebook.

Recent posts by Heather Callaghan

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5 Comments on "This Prank Proved That Americans Don’t Read Past Headlines"

  1. The world listens and reads in sound bites. Anything longer than that people are incapable of comprehending. This is why when propaganda pieces, one excellent example is vaccine article, everything the CDC wants people to know are in the headline and the first, maybe second paragraphs of the piece because anything after that the people phases out and can’t follow. Our communications have been reduced to sound bites.

  2. 2 examples. panels, news announcers, sitcoms etc; all still refer to 911 as it took place according to the official report. yet no sign of a boeing on the pentagon lawn.
    another one is global warming. even if temperature drops, and winter is extended, its still global warming. it will bring an ice age because it got warmer. are you still reading? have you studied the vast changes that are occurring in the other planets of this solar system?

    • AtomicMetroid | October 1, 2015 at 8:21 am | Reply

      They had to change it from “global warming” to “climate change” because it made them look like the money-grubbing fools they are.

  3. EnditsoonLORD | October 1, 2015 at 8:20 am | Reply

    Actually this just goes to prove that some people find deception funny. If the Headline matches the article then there is no reason to read it. Especially when the Headline is a lie. Because the HEADLINE is supposed to be a SUMMARY OF THE ARTICLE. And since they READ your headline it negates your joke. But many on the internet love to play the old bait and switch and then pat themselves on the back for their deception/satire.
    There would be no “Faulty Presumption of the Headline” if the headline actually matched the story. So the “joke” may be on the “readers” but the deception is clearly lies with NPR.

  4. AtomicMetroid | October 1, 2015 at 8:22 am | Reply

    The other day a video game company(COD) released a commercial that looked like a real breaking news story. People thought it was real and didn’t check the source.

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