Fake Theme Park News | clickbait in the entertainment industry

As someone who reads and writes about the theme park industry, it drives me crazy to see “fake news” articles, written by both mainstream journalism and online sites, where the facts are all wrong. Worse still, a new and persistent orient oneself is not only to get the facts wrong, but to do so apparently on purpose. The intention is to sensationalise the story, in order to make a non-event sound like a near-tragedy.

These articles usually start with a crazy title that is just plain wrong. On the internet, this practice is known as clickbait dropping. This term refers to the act of creating content with a title so outrageous that it simply begs the reader to click on it and find out what is really going on.

Potential readers then click the link to read the story on a new site, where it appears alongside advertisements. Online advertisements allow news sites to make money and pay their bills. It’s not that different from mainstream print journalism, where the same practice of tabloid headlines serves a similar purpose.

The practice, originally known as yellow journalism, is said to have started around the early 1900s in New York City. Various newspapers competed for readership by trying to outdo each other with their headlines, alongside outrageous or outrageous stories.

News or rumours?

I realize the irony that it is me, of all people, who brings up this subject. As the creator of screamscapea website that reports entertainment industry news and themed entertainment alongside a bountiful store of rumours, I can understand why some may scoff at what I’m about to say.

Yes, I talk about rumors quite often, especially when I talk about potential future projects. They are dreams of what can be built, where it can be built, why and by whom. Often these rumors are unconfirmed truths. But other times, those rumors are just faded dreams of something designed or proposed but never approved.

Young people on a roller coaster

I’ll also be the first to admit that sometimes these rumors end up being completely untrue, and nothing more than someone’s wishful thinking.

The Rise of Theme Park Fake News

What I’ve seen too much of late, however, has been unwarranted and sensationalized clickbait reports of real-life incidents at theme parks.

It’s not the first time this has happened. But since the unfortunate death of a runner on the Orlando FreeFall tower in late March, the number of misleading articles attempting to exaggerate minor incidents in order to get more clicks has reached the point of ridiculousness. It goes back to the age-old motto of newspaper journalists, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

Recently, a roller coaster at Carowinds stopped on the way up the hill from the lift. Publications across the country made headlines claiming the runners were “left upside down for 45 minutes.”

times now upside down roller coaster

The articles included photos of almost every other roller coaster in the park except for the one involved in the incident. In many cases, photos of roller coasters in entirely different parks, some not even in the same country, were posted instead, if the post felt a scarier ride could help “sell” the story. .

Worse still, some of the quotes attributed to passengers said they were on board. This included a particularly memorable one where a runner said, “I personally watched my tears fall from the sky. It was terrifying. Such poetry and drama…while stuck on an elevator hill that the manufacturer lists as being at a 45º angle. It’s not even close to being upside down. In fact, it’s the same angle as the staircase next to which the trapped riders were sitting.

The theme park against false reports

During the same week, video footage accompanied an article published on a theme park blog, well known for this kind of fake news, featuring the SkyRush roller coaster at Hersheypark.

Footage shows a roller coaster train leaving the station to climb the lift hill. Meanwhile, the next train enters the station to be loaded. Just before the last car going up disappears from view, the train stops on the lift hill.

The article claimed that passengers at the station could have been run over if the elevator train had rolled back. The headline of the website read on all social media, “Giant Coaster nearly crushes guests after Scary Lift Hill fails.”

Fortunately, in this case, hershey parkThe social media team has sprang into action. The park called the publication for this horrible title attached to a complete non-event. The publication has since deleted the original tweets and other social media posts, along with the original article.

In contrast, however, I haven’t seen Carowinds try to correct the dozens of fake news headlines claiming they kept riders trapped upside down in the park for 45 minutes. Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens too often. The typical park reaction is to try to ignore it until the story gets old and goes away. However, the steps taken by Hersheypark to correct history and control their own narrative touched me.

No need for fake news

I post a lot of rumors about Screamscape. But I seek to publish the truth and only the truth when a serious incident takes place. It doesn’t matter if it’s a story where someone dies or a rare case where riders get stuck upside down for a short time (that’s happened this week in Kennywood on the Aero 360 ride.)

There is no place to spread lies just for clicks.

There should be a simple solution to prevent this kind of thing from happening again in the future. Perhaps it would be useful to have an organization ready to spring into action to set the record straight?

It would be beneficial for the industry to have a spokesperson who could serve as an official authority figure for these occasions. Someone the media could call on at times like these to stop sensational stories from spreading. A known voice could help ensure the media is telling the truth. It would also help to challenge those who are spreading lies.

Perhaps the task could fall to a division within IAAPA? Either way, I think the industry as a whole would benefit from being proactive and open to discussion when these kinds of things happen.