Why we toned down April Fools Day, and the STLA layoffs

Recently, we posted a story on thousands of Stellantis layoffs. The reactions on social media were mostly knee-jerk slams of President Biden, the UAW, and “woke.”The people posting on Facebook couldn’t be expected to know that the layoffs were in Italy; they didn’t even read the entire headline, much less go to Stellpower to read the full story.

Tavares at Warren with Ragalyi, Resha

People were publicly venting their opinions based solely on a quick reading of part of a headline. That’s dangerous, because most headline writers don’t summarize stories in the headline; they just want you to click on it. Ad-supported news services (nearly all news services) get paid for the advertising, not for your understanding and education. Only a small number of people actually read the stories, so the headlines get more and more misleading.

Often, too, the headline writers have their own agenda, and the headline has almost nothing to do with the story. They also tend to have their own language; executives, for example, are not fired, they “step down.” Haphazard theories end up in headlines, to be discredited by the stories. When companies issue press releases and assign reasons to their actions, these tend to be stated as truth by headlines with no critical analysis at all. (None of these problems are true at Stellpower, where the writers make their own headlines.)

Jeep and Stellantis leaders: Carlos Tavares, Christian Meunier, Jim Morrison

Those who clicked through on the layoff story found that the layoffs were in Italy, not the United States. Some, who had worked in the industry for decades, pointed out that life in the auto industry is filled with hiring and firing. While Stellantis likes to blame unions, regulations, and electric cars for their every action, they quite publicly pointed out that when Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot got together, many people would eventually be laid off—the action word here is “synergies.” That means that things each company did on its own would now be done jointly. That means fewer people are needed. For that matter, Peugeot leans more on outsourcing than Fiat did, and Peugeot’s leader is in charge of Stellantis.

So what does this have to do with April Fools Day? The sad fact is that while we had a few story ideas (aside from a repeat of last year’s “Chrysler bringing back the slant six”), at least one of us quickly realized that they would be spread as the truth. In the echo chamber of social media, there have been several past stories which ended up being reported as reality. Long ago, one Mac rumor site investigated the original source of one rumor, and discovered that they had issued it themselves; it was picked up by numerous other sites, and then they had “confirmed” it with those other sources. There is plenty of fake news making the rounds, without adding to it. Any April Fools joke has to be rather obvious—in a world where The Onion often predicts the near future.

Incidentally, it is rather odd that so many comment on Stellpower stories on Facebook without actually reading them. The site loads quickly, and the vast majority of stories are short and concise. I might add that reading our headlines on Facebook increases Meta’s already enormous profits and does nothing for us.

Fiat House

Quite often our headlines say what happened, but our stories explain why. You can learn a good deal about decision making in the auto industry, and make better sense of the rationality of many of these choices—or just glance at the headlines and get the impression that governments and automakers are run by fools (our stories do not explain all of Stellantis’ moves, admittedly—see above photo for details).

There’s more to the story and the best way to find it is to actually read the story.

Mildly related, at other sites:

The FactCheck article, being from 2016, itself includes some fake news—that Facebook and Google planned to take action on it. Neither ever did plan to do so, and neither ever took steps to do so. 

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