The recent rash of vandalism at St. Jean Baptist Church and other buildings in downtown Morinville had many people shaking their digital fists at “those damned kids” and their idle ways. Although there is no evidence as to the age of the culprits, the finger was immediately wagged at teens. Regardless of the age, an act of vandalism so early in the spring undoubtedly has some residents thinking – what’s the summer going to be like with respect to property crimes?
Now here’s where it gets interesting. Despite the headline and first paragraph of this editorial, the piece has nothing to do with curfews. You see, studies show many people do not read past the headline these days. If they do, they do not read much past the first paragraph before hitting the like button or offering their opinion on the handful of words they’ve read. In fact, some people will make a judgement call based solely on the photo that accompanies the article. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.
We’re not alone in this opinion. Last spring, the Washington Post published an article that suggested Americans read headlines and not much else. The information presented in Chris Cillizza’s article cited a study that indicated 6 in 10 Americans admitted to just grazing headlines rather than digging deeper into the news story for the full information.
Cillizza’s observation at the end of the brief article is that simple messaging is the most effective messaging, particular messaging that can fit on a bumper sticker or news headline.
The Morinville News is a strong believer in publishing our news headlines on social media. Our stats say there is a solid chance you are reading this article by way of one of those social media channels. But we also realize some people will never dig deeper than the headline and accompanying photo.
This knowledge has lead to the rise of media organizations using clickbait, a practice where headline writers use human curiosity to get you past the headline and on to the site.
Had we used clickbait in our headline about last Friday night’s vandalism, we would not have written the headline – “Vandals strike historic church.” Instead, we would have written the headline – “Illiterate artists buy cans of spray paint. What they wrote will leave you disgusted about our education system.”
Today, we receive endless media messaging from multiple channels. It remains increasingly important to give readers the most important information in the first few sentences of an article as studies show 6 in 10 people do not get much past that point.
As we continue well past 400 words in this editorial, we will close by saying we will continue to offer you local news in the brief fashion to which we all have become accustomed.
Understanding modern reader habits, we try to keep our articles under 500 words. This one is 493.