Here's some professional journalism advice: Don't oversell your stories with flashy and misleading headlines.
As a country, North Korea is a wreck. Its people are starving to death, and it hasn't the money, resources or infrastructure to keep the lights on at night. This isn't a metaphor. The country literally goes dark at nighttime.
By any normal measurement, North Korea is a failed hellscape of authoritarian rule.
Vox.com doesn't see it that way. That is, one of its headline writers doesn't seem to think so.
"Turns out North Korea's economy is actually doing pretty well," read a vox.com headline Tuesday.
This ought to be good.
"Resolute in its commitment to communism and plagued by sanctions, North Korea has one of the most isolated economies in the world. And yet its economy is showing signs of expanding — potentially at a pretty decent pace," reads the story's opening paragraph.
The author then adds this part just four paragraphs into the story, "None of this is to say that the quality of life in North Korea for many is anything other than nightmarish. Food shortages are rampant, and the economy is far from self-sufficient: About 70 percent of the population relies on food aid, and 40 percent of the country is malnourished."
The main problem with the vox.com article is that the headline is some obviously misleading clickbait. As a brief reminder, headlines are rarely written by reporters. That duty normally falls to editors.
The story itself is not that ridiculous, and it is mostly a retread of an article published this weekend by the New York Times wherein the paper reported North Korea's economy is "showing surprising signs of life."
Unlike vox.com, the Times had the good sense to not oversell its story.
"Scores of marketplaces have opened in cities across the country since the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, took power five years ago. A growing class of merchants and entrepreneurs is thriving under the protection of ruling party officials. Pyongyang, the capital, has seen a construction boom, and there are now enough cars on its once-empty streets for some residents to make a living washing them," the paper reported.
The Times added, "Reliable economic data is scarce. But recent defectors, regular visitors and economists who study the country say nascent market forces are beginning to reshape North Korea — a development that complicates efforts to curb Mr. Kim's nuclear ambitions."
This is all true and accurate. It's also not quite the same as saying North Korea's "economy is actually doing pretty well." Perhaps someone should have a longer conversation with a certain vox.com editor about what constitutes "pretty well."
Vox.com eventually updated the inaccurate headline Tuesday morning with something a bit more measured: