Media

Death of the editor: crowd-sourced headlines

By Branko Brkic 23 December 2009

If you don’t like the header on this story, mail us at The Daily Maverick and we’ll see what we can do. Hey, according to Arianna Huffington, who needs editors anyway?

The Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University, a project of the Nieman Foundation – perhaps the most prestigious journalism institution on the planet – calls it “devilishly brilliant”. Therefore it must be so. Never mind that it signals further erosion of the fast-waning powers of editors, or that tech-heads will take it to be yet another symbol of citizen journalism’s ultimate triumph.

We’re talking crowd-sourced headlines here, folks. That’s where you, the concerned citizen, get to decide which header you’d prefer on your morning news story, just like you get to decide whether you’d like your eggs sunnyside-up or hardboiled. And who’s the brains behind this genius breakthrough in super-democratic, instant-poll-driven news creation? None other than Arianna Huffington, of course, co-founder of the Huffington Post, and former spouse of – and campaigner for – Michael Huffington, oil baron extraordinaire and erstwhile Republican congressman fondly remembered as a dedicated slasher of US welfare budgets.

It must be said, though, that Arianna’s born-again populism cannot be entirely ascribed to her (obviously genuine) desire to serve The People. As the Nieman Lab helpfully suggests, readers of news are not just citizens, they are also consumers. “Headlines have always played the most promotional role in news,” reports the Harvard-based website, “charged with selling readers on the articles they adorn, so it only makes sense to apply the best tools of market research to their crafting. Think of it as a more rigorous version of magazines adjusting their covers based on newsstand sales.”

Read more: Nieman Journalism Lab

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