The mood in the newsroom of the Detroit Free Press was one of tension and excitement, as writers and editors eagerly waited to find out how their latest stories were trending online. As our class gathered around the data specialist’s desktop, a metrics software displayed in real time which stories were trending, where visitors were clicking, and which stories were failing. Elements of secondary importance, such as the wording of a headline and the placement of a picture influence the popularity of the different news articles, and great care is taken to make sure that they are effective. During the morning meeting at the Detroit Free Press, one of the reporters mentioned that by simply changing the headline, a news article could move up two or three spots on the ranking.
There is a focus on grabbing the reader’s attention like never before, and it becomes increasingly difficult for journalists to focus solely on reporting. The social media and internet presence of newspapers has greatly increased the pressure and workload for reporters. Journalists are now expected not only to write and occasionally photograph news, but also to tweet, film, and keep track of the online presence of their articles. Yet at the same time the upcoming generation of readers is becoming disinterested in actually reading the news, focusing instead on Facebook feeds and quick headlines. It truly seems like an insurmountable challenge to capture the attention of a generation with increasingly shorter attention spans, that is exposed to so many mesmerizing and elaborate distractions.
The journalists at the Detroit Free Press said that producing quality articles, with accurate information was most important of all, and that their team has some of the best investigative journalists around. This should be enough to maintain their reputation as one of the largest local newspapers in the nation. Yet they spend energy and resources on attention-grabbing campaigns that seem ineffective. It shouldn’t be the journalists responsibility to outdo the internet’s content in entertainment, but rather, they should focus on the integrity of their writing.