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Mike Welsh hates clickbait, so in order to explain why, he’s actively participated in it, recounting a night he was forced to pull Molly Meldrum…
This is a slightly irresponsible, yet hopefully edifying, article about a seriously annoying and grossly dishonest media practice. One utilising a deliberately misleading headline with the sole purpose of hooking a trusting user into diving deeper into an article with no intention of ever delivering truthfully on the promise of the banner. They call it Clickbait now, but it’s not new.
Now if you’re a bit canny and slightly cynical, which is healthy, you will already have sussed that my eye-catching headline is bogus or at the very least, slightly tricky.
But some of us are gullible. Myself included. Which is unhealthy.
Standing in a long queue at a checkout at Coles in the rural city of Wangaratta late, last year, my eye was caught by a shocking and disturbing headline on the cover of Woman’s Day. “Bert and Patti: Why we live apart.” Was the 40-odd-year marriage of Australian television’s “royal” couple really over?
Why wasn’t I told? And why did I have to find out in such traumatic fashion – sleazily splayed across the front cover of a grimy magazine? I felt dirty and I was hurt, upset and confused. I’d taken the bait. Again. The mag, which I returned to the rack without buying (sucked in, Woman’s Day), revealed the reason Bert and Patti’s 40-odd-year marriage is still very much intact is that they are forced to live apart due to Bert’s career. Bert was on the road for a lengthy national tour with the musical Rocky Horror Show while Pattie preferred to remain at the family home in Melbourne.
End of story.
But that is what Woman’s Day does. Bastards.
Back in the day, (when Rupert Murdoch was still in relatively short tabloid pants,) there was a newspaper called the Melbourne Truth. My father bought it purely for the racing section but paradoxically there was very little truth in The Truth apart from the neddy’s chances at Moonee Valley.
Most people took with a grain of salt The Truth‘s bi-weekly, salacious “Toorak matron found in bed with goat” and “Judge pleads with Catholic schoolgirl to whip him hard” front page headlines.
Back in the day, I once took the bait and bought a copy of The Truth precisely for more detail on the “Collingwood star bashes wife” banner screaming at me from outside a suburban newsagency. Wow, who could it be? The “star,” it turned out, had played just a handful of serviceable games for the Pies in the dim dark past and had returned to his interstate home many years earlier. There was a domestic altercation to which police were called and from which a court appearance resulted in long forgotten “star” player facing an accusation of Resisting Arrest. End of story.
But that was what The Truth did. Bastards.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the spank of a good tabloid headline in the morning, but there is a line between “Headless body found in topless bar” and “Lleyton Hewitt’s marriage is on the rocks” which must not be crossed.
These days I mostly loiter on social media and, despite insight from a three-decade, multi-media career in my rear view mirror, last week it happened again. Hook, line and rock singer. The Triple M site and a few others ran with “The time Molly Meldrum blew up at Matty Johns” banner. Breakfast-jock Johns had told the Ms’ audience how he and Mr Meldrum nearly “came to blows” a few years back, revealing details of the time when the Guru “unloaded deluxe” on him over a stunt on Johns’ TV show which featured footage of Molly’s Melbourne home being “invaded” and his cherished possessions “rummaged” by a crew from Johns’ program. At the end of a withering and profanity-peppered spray which included threats of legal action, the pranked prankster, Molly Meldrum, “floored” the footy legend with a big, fat…Got ya! Brilliant radio spot, but the bastards milked the story by omitting the inverted commas around the key phrase “blew up.”
Oh and BTW, I also omitted to add two highly pertinent words to my eye catching headline about “Pulling Molly off.”
It was the early ’80s and I was pulling a mid-dawn shift at Launceston’s 7EX Music ensuring that a live broadcast from Josephine’s, a nightclub in the Launceston Hotel in the city, went to air. Ian “Molly” Meldrum was on the deck as guest mix master that night and, sufficiently lubricated, was slipping into some of the same language he’d hurled at Matty Johns.
The studio hotline rings, and on the other end is the late and widely revered Allan McClelland, GM of the once great radio station, ordering me to take the broadcast off.
Me: “But it’s Molly, Mr Mac.”
He: “I don’t care if it’s Millie, just pull him off the air.”