“Oh, give us a break here!” writes one Patch commenter. “The headline should have read, ‘Monroe Township man arrested…’, and you know it. …this was a cheap shot obviously lobbed to attract attention to your otherwise mediocre piece. Sorry to say I fell for it.”
Other commenters came down hard on Patch for the story, which got noticed by Yahoo and CNN.com:
Matthew Rothenberg wrote:
I’ve worked in journalism for 25 years — online since the mid-’90s — and I know as well as I presume you do how this works. If you truly don’t understand how your “Robert J. Kennedy” headline graduated to CNN.com, you might want to read up on clickbait.
Dianna Ivanov wrote:
A Kennedy robbed a CVS, WHAT?” I can tell you I was disappointed to see the ploy. I’m happy that it’s NOT another sad Kennedy Family story however I’m feeling duped. Just sayin!
Here’s how West Deptford, NJ Patch editor Bryan Littel defends the headline:
Given there are a couple thousand Robert Kennedys in the United States, and we identified this one by age and hometown, there shouldn’t be any confusion. If another news organization is implying something else, that’s on them.
I asked Littel if he normally runs names of locals in crime report headlines. He writes in an email: “Yes, I typically run names in headlines, even when it comes to relative unknowns – I can give you a dozen or so examples from the past couple of months, if you’d like. It extends beyond crime, as well. If it’s relevant, and a story focuses on an individual, I prefer to get the name in the headline.”