There are two jokes in this editorial.
I make that statement to coax readers who may not finish the editorial as a reward. Yes, it’s a gimmick, but go with me on this one.
In 2013, Farhad Manjoo published an article on Slate.com measuring readership, calculating how many readers he was losing by paragraph; it was down by 31 percent at about this point.
We journalists understand this fact about our readers, which is why we pack as much pertinent information we can into the lead paragraphs, and less important information as the article goes on in what is known as an “inverted pyramid.”
We hope to get our readers the info they need early so that if they leave by the middle of the story, they don’t miss out on the big details, like the asteroid that will hit the East Coast next Thursday.
OK, there is no asteroid, but that tactic was used in July by Elizabeth Bromstein in her story “Scientists say giant asteroid could hit earth next week, causing mass devastation.” She revealed the truth that there was no asteroid in the second paragraph of her story, which was really about a study published by Columbia University and French National Institute computer scientists measuring online readership habits.
She asked those who finished the article to share it on social media and comment with a color so other readers could tell who “red” it and who didn’t. As a hyper-local newspaper, our stories focus on issues that directly affect readers in the Sedona area, such as Ron Eland’s story last week about parking meters coming to Uptown.
We had several thousand people who shared Eland’s article and commented on Facebook, but many who did not actually read it to see from the third paragraph that the meters were only going to be installed about 100 spots along State Route 89A, not everywhere in Uptown. Many readers didn’t make it this far.
One Uptown worker went so far as to calculate how much parking would cost her per month, time wasted had she just made it to the third paragraph and seen it didn’t affect where she regularly parks.
OK, because I promised, here’s joke No. 1: The past, present and future walk into a bar. It was tense.
While some readers stop reading if a story doesn’t interest them, when a story does, it seems counterintuitive to stop reading. Other readers asked where the parking meter fees would be spent, conjecturing all sorts of possibilities.
While less important than the start date, meter rates or parking spot locations, this detail was also included: The 12th paragraph of Eland’s story specifically stated the fees would be spent on Uptown improvements as recommended by Uptown merchants, property owners and city staff.
I spent some time last week reposting this paragraph verbatim for social media readers who didn’t get down that far. Our reporters spend time crafting news stories to pack details into them so that readers know what we do about an issue and we and people we interview don’t have to remember everything important that might have been said at a meeting or published in a public document.
To paraphrase Henry Jones Sr. from “Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade,” “I wrote them down … so I wouldn’t have to remember.”
If a story isn’t about your neighborhood or your workplace, or affects your taxes, it might lose your eyeballs. We understand that and certainly do not take it personally. If a story is vitally important to you, please do yourself a courtesy and read it fully so you are informed.
We journalists report the news as a service to you, our loyal readers. We do our best to make these stories succinct and engaging so that you will take the time to finish them and be better informed about your community.
Now for joke No. 2, but be warned it’s a nerdy one: Why did the Imperial Storm Trooper buy an iPhone? He couldn’t find the Droid he was looking for.