Gone are the days of a daily newspaper tossed on the lawn of every house in the neighborhood, stuffed with hearty news articles that the community relies on for their news and entertainment. Today, we can get our news instantaneously online. We can learn about anything under the sun. It is now our responsibility to filter through the plethora of information available to us and decide what is worth our time to read.
The information is being presented to us in tons of new ways. Our homepages, newsfeeds, and inboxes are constantly covered in headlines and articles. Twitter allows us to read news as it unfolds in 140 characters or less. Attention spans have dropped from 12 minutes to 5 minutes because of the instantaneous gratification social networks and blogs provide us with. Patience is a virtue that much of the population no longer possesses.
Has this changed the way many journalists work? Maybe. Journalists have to use their headlines to catch the attention of their audience and, much of the time, write shorter, straight to the point pieces that are informative and interesting. Headlines include key phrases and attention grabbing, provocative statements to generate clicks and readership. According to Steve Fox, you should write as long as it takes, but on many sites, readers will not read the full article once they see the tiny, daunting, scroll bar. It may be the same length as an article featured in a newspaper, but readers want their information and they want it quickly. Journalists now not only need to grab a reader’s attention, but hold it.
Although shorter articles are common on the web to satisfy our shorter attention spans, many journalists still write longer pieces and have a solid following of readers and fans. Obtaining this readership is the biggest goal of a journalist, not generating clicks. A journalist who has people reading their articles and enjoying them is doing their job well. Readers who trust a journalist’s reporting skills and the way they present their ideas will come back and read more. Clicks are important, but quality work is what a journalist should strive for. Quality work is what generates readership. Although the world of journalism is transitioning and changing, the goal of a journalist will persevere despite the medium they use to share it.