By Christian Page, senior at Auburn University majoring in journalism. This is a republished blog from Christian Page’s WordPress sports page.
The phrase “journalism is dead” is a cliché statement used to describe the current culture of the subject. Though it pains me to admit, the statement is not off.
Journalism took a hit when publications had to change its marketing strategy to attract readers on all social media platforms. Don’t get me wrong; social media has done wonders for journalism and has actually helped journalism in more ways than one may think.
Social media has provided readers to have direct contact with journalists of all kinds expressing comments in a unique way. It’s great that readers don’t have this invisible wall between them and writers as there seemed to be before social media.
“Though there are immense benefits for what social media has brought to journalism, it has also dented it in more ways than most organizations and publications want to admit.”
That may not even be of their concern.
Scrolling through Twitter, headlines that might as well be posted in boldface 100-point font are designed to draw users in to read the content.
That may be the initial strategy, but it’s not always followed through by the reader.
The sentiment of creating an attractive headline that encourages a reader to dig in deeper by clicking on the link to the full story is a great strategy.
But a large part of the social media world, doesn’t go any further than the headline (Yes, this may be a generalization but it’s evident based on comment threads and reactions to certain headlines on Twitter among other media).
I’m not posting to fault the idea of using trendy and snazzy headlines to use as an invitation for readers. I applaud that.
What I give the lowest of thumbs down to is creating a headline that caters to a trend or phenomenon but is not backed by actual evidence.
It’s sensationalizing and it’s wrong.
Users of social media take headlines and run with them as if they were stamped with approval by the pope. That confirmation comes even without the user clicking the link and reading about what the headline suggests.
On Aug. 2, ESPN SportsCenter’s Twitter account posted a headline linking to a report pertaining to rumors surrounding the Baltimore Ravens’ front office and its decision on welcoming in free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
This is an inviting social media headline that should encourage users to read more into the story.
Check HERE for link to ESPN article.
I did and came away disappointed.
The report released by ESPN’s news service staff references sources obtained by Dianna Russini that say “head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome support the signing of free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick, but they have met resistance from owner Steve Bisciotti.”
Sources take years to gather based on trust and constant communication. That trust can be immediately broken if a source is revealed to an audience. The anonymity is key with sources when gathering such information.
Based on the reliability of reporters, readers are encouraged to take the reporters’ word based on sources gathered. That’s fine. With that, comes evidence of a quote, or any type of substance to paint a picture of the statement or report being true.
In ESPN’s report on Baltimore, there are no quotes. No grounds of evidence. Nothing related to the headline. The only thing stated that gives credit to the headline is “sources tell.”
In the fourth paragraph, Ozzie Newzome, Baltimore general manager, gives a statement on these reports.
“We are going through a process, and we have not made a decision,” the statement said. “Steve Bisciotti has not told us we cannot sign Colin Kaepernick, nor has he blocked the move. Whoever is making those claims is wrong.”
Remember, the headline stated, “…and the Ravens GM support signing Colin Kaepernick, but the team’s owner does not.”
Now, the article has substance and grounds of evidence…but on the opposite side of what the titled headline suggests.
If there is truth to this, I will stand back and reevaluate the situation. But, sitting here reading the report over and over again, what data is there to say the owner is blocking the signing of Kaepernick?
I’m not taking sides here on whether Kaepernick should be signed. That’s a whole other post on it’s own that I will not be writing any time soon, if ever.
I don’t want to sound like a disgruntled minimum wage employee bumping for a raise after working their first month without vacation.
I know how journalism works. It’s tough, sometimes miserable, especially for reporters. I get it. I’m not bashing the process or the reporters. They’re doing their jobs.
But is a source or two supposed to model my opinion on someone or a certain topic? I hope not.
In all, I’m just serious about a subject that I’m passionate about that needs retooling to begin breathing again.
If click-bait articles involving sensationalized headlines and reports just to get page views or likes on social media is the new means of journalism, I’ll close the door on my way out.
Christian Page is a senior at Auburn University (December graduate, 2017). Page is majoring in journalism while minoring in business. He writes weekly college football articles for Sporting News and is a contributor for AuburnTigers.com. Page is a traveling NFL Draft evaluator and college football writer for Optimum Scouting. Page has resided in Auburn, Alabama, since 2009.