All the News That Fits — Into Our Media-Addled, Hypertasking, Zero-Attention Brains

My first job out of college was at a group of community newspapers in the pre-desktop publishing era. I used to love the large space next to the newsroom where each issue was laid out on long tables.

The woman who ran the department lived by the sword — her X-ACTO knife.

She always told us journalists to put the least important bits at the end of our stories. If she needed space she’d cut paragraphs from the bottom without even reading. She knew how few readers would get to the end of a story so she could make brutal edits without too much thought.

She lived by the sword — her X-ACTO knife

It was true then. It’s far more true now. Our brains are X-ACTO knives. This is why I like seeing examples of people who get this. And I don’t only mean viral TikTok stars who have mastered the art of ultra-short and the algorithm. I mean all people know how to get people in the right time and the right place. Like this Girl Scout. And like the team at The New York Times who decided to ask for sources involved in a story to get in touch almost at the jump. See screenshot.

It’s not uncommon now for news organizations to seek such information. I sometimes see this at the BBC. But they put it at the end of stories. Sheesh … people have long-since Brexited the article.

Update Feb. 4 2024: I just noticed the San Francisco Chronicle is doing what the NYTimes is doing. It’s a thing.


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