Eyetracking a 9-year-old boy

My 9-year-old son, Ross, is a faithful reader of the News & Observer’s sports section. He feels lost without it at the breakfast table each morning.

Today, I observed the way Ross reads the section. With apologies to my Eyetrack friends at The Poynter Institute, here’s some anecdotal “research” on the reading patterns of my son.

Ross quickly scanned the front page and noticed the centerpiece on Maryland’s win over Duke in a big ACC basketball game. Then he turned to the back of the section and began poring over the agate page.

There, Ross noticed that the Carolina Hurricanes hockey team had made several trades the day before. He rattled off the list of players swapped.

What makes this interesting is that a bylined story on the top left of the section’s front page was about the Carolina trades. The story had a headline, a small photo and body text. But Ross had missed it altogether in favor of the tiny type in the back of the section.

For my son, the agate page is where the news is. It’s pure data and trivia, and for him, the most important page in the section. He’s probably not alone among sports fans.



  1. Someone actually reads the agate pages … let alone the transactions filler item? Well at least now it feels like less of a pain to do.

  2. I used to love the agate when box scores could only be found in the newspaper. The things I learned in the transactions and results of other sports was fun, but I never would have gone there if it weren’t for box scores.

    Sadly, as with many things in newspapers now, agate is wasting space in the paper because box scores and other stats are available in real-time online now.

    I’m surprised anyone would actually still include agate in the print product. That’s some muy valuable real estate to use for something most people turn to the web for these days.

  3. I bet he just hates wading through all the blah-de-blah that surrounds the facts in stories like the front-pager.

    When you really *care* about the facts, the fluff can be agonizing.

    Plus, discovering the facts, and creating your own interpretation of what they mean, and the relationships between them, is where all the FUN is. That’s learning, that’s thinking.

    (and if anybody ever hints that your son is somehow being intellectually unsophisticated because he “reads the sports pages,” and bcs of the stereotype of the dumb jock, point out the level of analysis he is doing as he is being a fan.)

    I hate most news stories bcs of all the surrounding garbage. Most of them could be half as long and tell me twice as much if it weren’t for the fluff.

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