Over the past several years, there's been much talk regarding the trustworthiness of the media. It seems the more we move forward in time, the more that distrust grows.

And there's a whole slew of reasons for this. Sometimes it's the fault of the person sharing their content, while other times it's simply over the consumer's viewpoint.

Doesn't matter if it's print, digital, television, or radio. If someone disagrees with what they're consuming, then they automatically assume the media can't be trusted.

That reason, of course, is absolutely ridiculous since facts and opinions are two different things. The sad reality here is, far too many people out there can't tell the difference between the two.

So when it comes to different media outlets, that one isn't on you. Yes, sometimes the consumers' mistrust is simply because facts don't align with their opinion, and that's simply not fair. To disagree isn't the same as not being trustworthy.

Fact or opinion

I just wanted to get that part out of the way in support of my colleagues before flipping the script. You cannot let your opinion of something blur what the facts are just because you don't like what you're seeing, hearing, or reading.

With that said, however, there's also a certain responsibility content creators and media outlets must have in order to be considered trustworthy. Unfortunately, some of my colleagues across the country don't seem to understand the importance of this.

The example I'm about to share highlights this very point. One that revolves around a retailer many across the region absolutely love.

Minerva Studio

On Friday, May 5, 2023, Christmas Tree Shops announced they were filing for bankruptcy. That was on the heels of Bed Bath & Beyond's announcement of filing for bankruptcy and going out of business.

Since the announcement, Christmas Tree Shops has released a list of stores that would be affected as part of this restructuring. You can check out the closure list by clicking here, but as of now, not a single New Jersey location appears to be affected.

Now, if you follow social media in any capacity, you might've thought the company was completely folding. The moment word of this bankruptcy went public, far too many working in the media used descriptions and headlines that were misleading and inaccurate.

The most popular phrase I saw was "End of an Era" when referring to the bankruptcy announcement. And that naturally would automatically get you to think that the company is going out of business.

Facebook post screenshot
Mike Brant (Canva)

And it worked. Including the phrase "End of an Era" with bankruptcy got people going to the comment sections to share how disappointed they are that Christmas Tree Shops was going out of business.

Many readers were passionate, too, and those very stories with those headlines were shared again and again. Completely understandable for those who love shopping at Christmas Tree Shops.

The only problem is, those types of descriptions and headlines are completely misleading. And yet, they did their job and got you, the consumer, talking about it.


Even in those articles with misleading headlines, it was stated that although some stores would close, the main purpose of the bankruptcy filing was so they can restructure their finances. Not quite the same thing as going out of business.

And, as mentioned above, that list of current store closures has been released, with none in New Jersey affected as of this article. But yet, I saw some folks on my own social feeds that live in New Jersey sharing and commenting thinking the company was completely shutting down.

This kind of thing sadly happens a lot in this industry, and it only seems to be getting worse as many writers compete for your attention. Damned if we use an honest headline, let's just twist the truth in whatever way we want.

Misleading information / Fake news

And this kind of misleading practice bothers many of us in the industry who strive to stick with staying as truthful as possible. It's very unfortunate, and we all lose when integrity gets thrown out the window.

Even with opinion pieces such as this one, it's important to make sure we don't mislead. Unfortunately, far too many writers out there either can't tell the difference between fact and opinion, or they just simply don't care to differentiate the two.

And that's not fair to you at all. You deserve honesty, and you don't always get it. It's unfortunate, but this trend to mislead doesn't seem to be slowing down any time soon.

Not telling the truth

With that said, there's also a bit of an issue with the consumer as well that simply fuels this practice. And if you're still with me here, then this next problem doesn't relate to you at all.

Have you ever noticed in comment sections how obvious it is that many people never bothered to read an online article in the first place? Those who don't bother to read beyond the headline and just get emotional, then comment and share without any context of what the stories are actually about.

That's also a problem and cause of misinformation. Assuming you know all about a story without reading it while putting your own twist on it is a major issue when it comes to social media.

Signpost with right and wrong direction signs vector illustration
Zoran Milic

Then, as misleading and inaccurate comments continue to grow, new consumers come along and just continue to add to the comments making it worse and worse. Before you know it, the story takes on a completely different meaning thanks to those who never bothered to read the article in the first place.

And when you combine that with misleading headlines, the results are nothing close to the truth. It's one of the major problems when it comes to news and written pieces on social media.

Social media concept

The bankruptcy filing of Christmas Tree Shops is just one example that stirred more memories from shoppers than anything else but also got them to believe their beloved retailer was going away forever. Yes, things will change, but it's not as dire as some headlines made it seem.

So my note to my colleagues out there is this. Please try to stay true to the facts whenever you write a piece, including within the headline.

Integrity goes a long way, and we've unfortunately been missing the mark lately as writers. This especially goes for those who are referred to as content creators and those who might not necessarily be held to the same standards as news journalists.

telling the truth / trustworthy

And as for the readers? Well, it's really quite simple. Read the article and stop assuming you know everything about it by just looking at the headline or description.

Yes, some of us in the media have a habit of posting misleading headlines, and we need to do better. But it's all the more reason why you, as the consumer, need to question it and read what's written for yourself.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Mike Brant. Any opinions expressed are his own.

LOOK: The biggest scams today and how you can protect yourself from them

Using data from the BBB Scam Tracker Annual Risk Report, Stacker identified the most common and costly types of scams in 2022.

Expert Tips for Avoiding Online Shopping Scams

In order to avoid a scammer getting the better of you, check out the following red flags to look out for as well as preventative measures to take from Dr. Skiba, AKA Dr. Fraud himself:

More From New Jersey 101.5 FM