But by late March, social media helped propel an overlooked news story into one that was the center of global conversation. Over time, though, the story faded from the headlines. But recently, online momentum has kept minority deaths in the news. When Michael Brown, another unarmed black teen, was fatally shot by a police officer last August, media coverage was consistently focused on police killings of minorities: Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Antonio Zambrano-Montes, and many others have not disappeared, and that’s largely due to online chatter. At this point, you may be thinking, “Anita, traditional media outlets use analytics and other digital tools, too.”
And you’d be mostly right, but old habits die hard. Editors still have the final say on what makes the front page, and producers still have the final say on what leads the newscast. In comparison, readers drive the layout of our home page: the stories they click on the most move to prime spots. Readers decide themselves what they think is important. One major criticism of online publications is that they pander too much to readers.
When we see an influx of twerking videos or goat pics, if we give the people what they want, this criticism is legitimate and one that journalists and industry watchers frequently debate about, but the pros outweigh the cons. Fun, frivolous content may rise to the top, but so will important stories that wouldn’t normally make front page of a newspaper or lead the newscast. This shift away from prioritizing the judgement of a select few is so necessary.
We need to keep up this momentum and continue producing stories that everyone cares about. We need to listen to all voices. Let’s embrace a new front page.