Q&A with Bret Strelow, sports communicator at Appalachian State

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Bret Strelow, right, at the New Orleans Bowl in December 2018. Appalachian State beat Middle Tennessee, 45-13.

Bret Strelow is director for strategic communications in the department of athletics at Appalachian State University. He previously worked as a sportswriter at several newspapers in North Carolina. In this interview, conducted by email, Strelow discusses his job at App State and his transition from news to public relations.

Q. Describe your job. What is your typical day like?

A. My title says I’m a director of strategic communications, so I should probably be better at communicating what I do for a living, right? Essentially, for the App State Athletics Department, I play a big role in planning and producing information that is communicated both externally to the public and internally.

That includes but is not limited to working with our athletics department administrators on bigger-picture matters (construction projects, proposals to various boards at the state or campus level), our fundraising arm (the Yosef Club on fundraising initiatives, membership drives, ticket/parking/benefit updates for members), our ticket office (season-ticket releases, etc.), our marketing department (department-wide and sport-specific promotions), our facilities personnel (for event planning), our Learfield IMG College employees (on sponsored content and events) and certainly, last, but not least, our coaches and student-athletes in terms of game operation (staffing of and running stats for home events) as well as coverage of their games/accomplishments on our web site, social media and through press releases, publication design/editing and maintaining/updating their team web pages.

That part involves written content, graphics, photography, working with our video production team (for creative content and live streams) and media relations for newspapers, television stations, radio stations and other outlets that are covering App State independently.

The best answer I can give about a typical day is that every time you begin a day with a plan for what you want to work on, very quickly new, unexpected things jump on your to-do list where prioritizing the most urgent or important items is vital. With requests from administrators, coaches, the Yosef Club, ticketing, our marketing department and other entities all coming in, that can be a delicate balance to strike of what to tackle first, but we are all working together with the hope that our efforts serve a greater good for the university as a whole.

I typically am in the office Monday-Friday starting around 8 or 9 a.m. and am working until at least 5 p.m. each day, often longer in the office or at home in the evenings, and definitely longer when there are night games on the schedule. Obviously, in sports, that means working a lot of weekend days and nights, and in certain seasons, it’s working every day of the week.

In football season, for instance, a Monday would focus heavily on game notes for the next weekend’s game and the content for the souvenir game program if it’s a home game, as well as setting up/covering a coach’s press availability. In the past, our Tuesdays and Wednesdays involved open practices for the media at the end of days in which you’re doing a lot of other work from 9-4. Each day you’re trying to produce football-related content, and in the case of a road game, you’re probably traveling on a Friday.

Later in the week is when you’re dealing with credential/parking requests and press box set-up with your game notes, or creating/printing the big flipcards that have info on both teams. My (often frustrating) relationship with printers has increased exponentially since switching from newspapers to the SID side.

Game day involves being there several hours early and working several hours after the game on recaps/photo galleries/stat submissions to your website, the NCAA, your conference. By Sunday morning, there are awards submissions, and often work must begin on game notes/game program items Sunday in order to have a shot at finishing it Monday given the nature of having weekday meetings and other responsibilities.

At App State, we have five or six people available to handle 20 varsity sports, so my sport-specific responsibilities have been being a primary SID or contact for football in the fall (I’m actually No. 2 behind my boss, but football requires a lot), wrestling in the winter and baseball in the spring. Baseball plays more than 50 games a year, often on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, so it’s handling those game events in addition to the regular Monday-Friday office schedule.

I promise this will be my longest answer. I do type words for a living.

Q. How do story editing and headline writing work for the Appalachian State sports website?

A. For most of the day-to-day, sport-specific writing (game previews, recaps, notes), the person in charge of his or her sport basically self-edits, because there’s just not time for everyone to read over everyone else’s work. Given my background as a sports writer, I am the most involved in our department in checking over some of those other stories for typos/clarity. Additionally, my boss (the head of our six-person staff) and I are definitely involved in the editing of bigger stories for each sport, like a coach hiring, and the two of us write a lot of the content for bigger-picture matters involving the athletics department and personnel.

Headline writing is done mostly with the space confines of the website template in mind so that it’s not too long but still includes the most important, search-triggering info of who and what. With so many stories on our site, naming by sport instead of school or as some combo of the two can be a bit tricky so as not to be redundant with everything including App State but still reading in a smooth way.

Q. You covered Appalachian State as a sportswriter for the Winston-Salem Journal and the Fayetteville Observer. What was it like to move from reporting on the school’s sports programs to working for them?

A. The changes are more subtle than drastic, but there are differences. With my football coverage, I probably do try to write in more of a “beat writer” way than most SIDs with creative, detailed ledes and more color. And working in features for our site and game program is one of the reasons I’m in this role at all — to beef up our storytelling.

On the flip side, certainly I’m focusing on the positives, and I also write with an idea of what the coaches value. Football game stories tend to focus on the scoring and offense, for instance, but making sure to give a good defensive performance its due and include defensive items high in a story are things I’ve learned quickly based on how my story is perceived by the people with whom I work on a daily basis. And if a team I’m covering suffers a one-sided loss, that’s going to be a pretty short, matter-of-fact recap.

Q. It’s “talking season” in college football. What is the word on the Mountaineers this year?

A. It should be an exciting year. App State is coming off an 11-2 season in which it won its third straight conference title and improved to 4-0 in FBS bowl games.

The Mountaineers lost only one offensive starter and four defensive starters from the 2018 team, but there are plenty of new faces at the top and among the staff with head coach Eliah Drinkwitz replacing Scott Satterfield. How the new-look staff comes together with a talented, accomplished foundation, both in terms of personnel and program identity, is the question we’ll figure out an answer to as the 2019 team develops its own identity with a system that is, in some ways, different for everyone.

Is that a good enough PR answer? With a Sun Belt schedule that includes road games against some of the better teams in the league, plus a nonconference schedule that includes two Power Five opponents in North Carolina and South Carolina, there are definitely reasons to dream big but proceed with an awareness that past success doesn’t guarantee anything this year.

Visit the App State athletics website and follow Bret Strelow on Twitter.

Q&A with Kaarin Vembar, editor at Retail Dive

Kaarin_Headshot Kaarin Vembar is an editor at Retail Dive in Washington, D.C. Vembar has also worked as a fashion consultant, and she is co-host of the podcast Pop Fashion. In this interview, conducted by email, Vembar discusses her job at Retail Dive, including how headline writing works at the site. 

Q. Describe your job at Retail Dive. What is your typical day like?

A. My day starts by gorging on news. I read as much as possible first thing every morning (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Reuters, CNBC, CNN, WWD, Business of Fashion, Tech Crunch, Seeking Alpha, Bloomberg, etc.). I’m also reading the wires, checking news that is emailed to me, reading Twitter and checking in on what other business reporters are chatting about on social media.

Then I move into either writing or straight into editing. I edit for between three to four hours in the morning. In the afternoons, I help decide what stories we are pursuing for the next day, and then I work on editing longer features.

My favorite part is collaborating with reporters and freelancers on large stories ideas. We get together and brainstorm and work through a story’s angle, potential sources and how to build it out. I typically have a couple of longer feature articles that I’m writing as well. That means doing research, calling sources, reading for background, conducting interviews and writing.

Throughout the week, there is a smattering of meetings to work on editorial planning, larger projects and pitching ideas.

At the end of the day, I do a round of reading SEC documents. Then at home I continue to read, read, read business news that happened during the day outside of my industry. Then I go on a walk and usually think of a story idea.

Q. How do story editing and headline writing work at Retail Dive?

A. We go through multiple rounds of edits for each story.

Headline writing is first done by the reporter, but then is refined through the editing process. Many times we workshop headlines with another editor or as a group.

I’m a big advocate for sending headlines into a pun round. That means throwing it out to the group and seeing who can come up with a headline that contains a pun or doing a version that makes everyone laugh. The pun version rarely makes it to final copy. However, it is a fantastic exercise that helps us think creatively and gives us room to play with words. The one-upmanship always gets us to a more interesting place.

After a story is published, I see how other news organizations have worked their headlines and assess ours. Could we have worded it better? Positioned the story in a different way? My objective is to continually sharpen the language, the angle.

Q. You’ve also worked as a merchandising manager and fashion consultant. What is it like covering a profession that you’ve worked in?

A. Oh my goodness, it’s so freaking fun. It’s. So. Fun.

I’ve worked in retail in some form on and off since I was 17, and I’ve always enjoyed it.

As a fashion consultant, I started seriously following industry news, and it slowly became an obsession. Retail news is better than anything you will watch on TV. You see companies rise and fall. You follow audacious c-suite personalities and their decision making.

The stakes are high because there is so much money on the line. We are living through a huge time of change with retail, so following the business of it is all drama all the time.

My time as a fashion consultant and in merchandising directly informs my reporting and continually feeds ideas for pitches. That work gave me a practical understanding of trade relations and tariffs. Of margins. Of supply chain. Of  dealing with consumer frustration.

It also gave me discipline. I used to get up at 5:30 a.m. to go merchandise a store and think, “Now why am I doing this?” The grind of being in stores every day gave me a sharp eye for the reality of retail. It was an amazing education.

Q. What advice do you have for journalism students interested in internships and jobs at Dive sites?

A. Oh, dear goodness — apply! Apply!

It never occurred to me when I was in school that business-to-business (B2B) was a type of journalism that I could pursue. But B2B is a blast because you get to go deep on a subject matter. You get to nerd out and are surrounded by people who are just as into it as you are.

Industry Dive has lots of publications including Marketing, BioPharma, Banking, Food, MedTech, Restaurants and Smart Cities. I’m a cheerleader for this company because I’m surrounded by smart, passionate co-workers and leadership that believes in the power of great journalism.

Follow Kaarin Vembar on Twitter and explore career opportunities at Industry Dive.

Q&A with Abbie Bennett, reporter at Connecting Vets

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Abbie Bennett is senior reporter at Connecting Vets, a news organization that covers “the veteran experience through stories of inspiration and perseverance.” A 2012 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, Bennett previously worked at North Carolina newspapers, including The News & Observer in Raleigh and The Daily Reflector in Greenville. In this interview, conducted by email, Bennett discusses her work at Connecting Vets, where she covers the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Defense Department and Congress.

Q. Describe your job. What is your typical day like?

A. Every day is different for me, and since I cover the Hill, it really depends on what’s happening at the Capitol and at the VA, usually.

My early mornings start about the same no matter the day — checking emails (hoping to be surprised by a FOIA request return), Slack and Twitter. Since we are a national publication covering veterans and the military, we cover multiple time zones, and things can break overnight.

By about 8 a.m., I’m headed to the Metro either on my way to the office or more likely the Hill, especially if Congress is in session or hearings are scheduled. Sometimes I will stop on my way for a breakfast meeting with a source.

Around 9 or 10 a.m., depending on the day, our newsroom has its daily budget meeting, letting our editor know what we’re working on and what is expected to turn that day, along with coordinating social with our social media manager and appearances on our radio shows and podcasts. If I’m at the Capitol, I join via Slack or phone.

I spend the early parts of my day tracking activities on the Hill, including hearings, press conferences, votes and other scheduled events and planning interviews. Many of my interviews are done in our recording studios so they can be used in our podcasts and on our radio shows, so those take some extra planning. I keep a detailed planner and calendar to track all those moving pieces, and we have a shared team calendar.

I spend the rest of my day going to hearings, working on stories, either dailies — shorter stories that publish the same day — or long-form pieces.

I also help edit my team’s work, so I edit and socialize their stories, especially on days I’m not on the Hill.

Q. How do story editing and headline writing work at Connecting Vets?

A. When a story is ready, it goes through at least two phases of line editing.

The writer drops it in our “drafts” Slack channel with proposed social share text. Usually, another member of our team will read over the story, check all of the metadata and assets (such as photos and embed codes) and then post a Slack message letting an editor know it’s ready for a final read. After the second edit, the story is published to our site (or sent to a network of company sites) and is scheduled for social.

Headline writing is a collaborative effort sometimes, though I hope to make it more so. Every reporter is expected to put a headline on their story in our content management system, and editors can make changes. Our executive producer has final say. We also workshop headlines together either out loud in the newsroom or on Slack.

Q. You previously worked at daily newspapers. What differences and similarities have you seen between those jobs and the one you have now?

A. Connecting Vets is a national digital publication that was originally founded under CBS Radio. CBS Radio was later purchased and merged with Entercom, the second-largest radio company in the U.S. We still partner with CBS media, too.

So I’d say the biggest difference is that my work is much more multimedia than ever before. In addition to video and photo that is such a big part of the digital experience at newspapers, I’m also working on audio and am a regular on radio and podcasts produced by my company. At my newspaper jobs, I was sometimes called on to be a guest on radio shows like WUNC’s “The State of Things” or a call-in for national television for big stories, but it was never regular. I certainly wasn’t producing any audio content myself.

Other than that, much of the work is similar. I report and write for our website and network, and then I talk about my work on air. My work is no different in style, quality or standard than it was at my newspaper jobs — the internet is a big equalizer in that way.

I think that if this was the 1980s, I’d have difficulty imagining a switch from print to radio, but now everything is print, in a way. And yes, we still follow AP and our own house styles.

Working with a smaller, more specialized team also gives me the opportunity to work on my writing, which I never had much luck getting feedback on at my previous jobs, especially at newspapers where cuts meant a lot less one-on-one time with editors. Sometimes it felt like the emphasis was on filling the paper or the site with content and not necessarily helping writers find their unique style and voice, and I missed that. I always want to get better at what I do.

Q. What advice do you have for college students interested in reporting and editing at a specialized site like Connecting Vets?

A. You need to have a passion for your specialization. We report on many topics, but it all circles back to veterans and the military.

I grew up an Army brat, moving all over the country and outside it, and much of my life was shaped by that lifestyle and community. All of us on the team are connected to the service in some way — spouses, military kids, active service members and veterans — and it means something to all of us to be a part of a publication dedicated to providing timely, accurate coverage of issues that touch that community.

In my last reporting position, I was covering anything and everything. While that was almost never dull, I didn’t have a chance to build sources and work a beat as I had in past reporting jobs. When your entire enterprise is a specialty publication, you definitely have that opportunity.

Beyond enthusiasm for your subject, you have to be willing to be an authoritative voice on the subject. You have to be willing to learn every single day and build a breadth of knowledge that readers recognize and trust, or you won’t ever build an audience.

That’s especially true for editing. You can’t fact check a story full of military terms and culture if you don’t understand it. And you certainly can’t relate to an audience who understands it all if you yourself don’t.

Connecting Vets has only been around about two years, so we’re working to build that authority and find that voice. We’re growing by leaps and bounds every day, building an audience in the millions while shining light on issues of critical importance to the millions of veterans, family members and advocates in the U.S.

My advice would be to find your passions and stay open to opportunities to combine a love for journalism with those subjects or be willing to suggest them yourself. Speak up in budget meetings, don’t be afraid to make ambitious pitches and work to serve those stories that don’t get the voice you think they should.

Read Abbie Bennett’s stories on the Connecting Vets website, and follow her on Twitter.

Q&A with POLITICO reporter Megan Cassella

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Megan Cassella is a reporter at POLITICO in Washington, D.C., covering the trade beat. She previously worked at Reuters news service. This interview was conducted by email.

Q. Describe your job at POLITICO. What is your typical day like?

A. Every day is a little bit different, which is what I like most about the job. My workday starts at home, occasionally with a few early-morning emails and phone calls and always with a first reading of the day’s news and a scan through Twitter. Because I cover international trade, my beat spans time zones, and we’re often reacting early to news that broke overnight in Beijing or Brussels.

By 9 or 10 a.m. I’m out the door, either to the newsroom, an event somewhere downtown, a coffee or breakfast meeting with a source, or to the Capitol. I work as part of a four-person team covering trade policy, so we’ll divide up the events of the day and then spend our remaining free time — when there’s no breaking news and no events to cover — meeting with sources and reporting out longer-term stories.

By late afternoon, we’ve shifted into planning for the next day, including by starting work on Morning Trade. It’s a policy newsletter we put out every weekday morning, and it serves as a preview of sorts for the next day in trade. On the couple nights a week that I spearhead the newsletter, I’ll aim to file it to my editor around 6 p.m., then dive back in around 10 p.m. to do a final headline sweep and “put it to bed,” as we say.

Q. The tweet pinned to your Twitter account says: “Who knew the trade beat would make you a war correspondent?” How so?

The line is meant to be a sort of play on words because I spend every day covering what many people would consider a trade war. It’s not an armed conflict in the normal sense of the word, but it’s still a prolonged and politically fraught standoff between the United States and many of its trading partners that has tremendously high economic stakes for most countries involved.

The “who knew” bit is a reference to the fact that when I switched to covering trade three years ago, it was a relatively sleepy beat. There was always something to write about, but in the pre-Trump era it was rarely front-page news and only occasionally caught the attention of major news outlets and the White House press corps.

These days, with an ongoing conflict with China and with Trump having declared that passage of his new North American trade deal is his top legislative priority for the year, we’re seeing trade news break almost every day. And we’re competing with everyone in covering it.

Q. How do headline writing and story editing work at POLITICO?

A. I have a deputy editor and head editor who both oversee trade, and I’ll file to either one of them when I’m writing a daily story. I’ll include a headline when I file, but editors have authority to change it, and sometimes we’ll go back and forth for awhile before we settle on one that suits us both.

For a larger or longer-term story, the piece often goes through a second edit by a deputy editor. Much of what I write is only for subscribers and remains behind a paywall, but if it’s moving to what we call the main site, an editor from that department will look it over. Big stories will often go through what we call A/B headline testing, meaning we’ll try two different headlines on it and someone from the web team will monitor to see which one is more successful online.

Q. You are a 2015 graduate of the journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill. What skills and ideas that you learned there do you use today? What new ones have you picked up?

A. It’s hard to put together a succinct list of everything I learned at UNC’s j-school that I use at work every day.

Chris Roush’s business journalism program gave me a solid grounding in economics reporting techniques and the ability to find stories in federal documents and data filings, skills that are fundamental to my beat. Ryan Thornburg’s data journalism class also gave me a familiarity with numbers and spreadsheets that I rely on frequently. And Paul O’Connor’s reporting class, which required us to travel to Raleigh once a week to talk to lawmakers, was a perfect preview for reporting on Capitol Hill and interacting with members of the House and Senate regularly.

More broadly, I felt the j-school instilled a sense of how dynamic the journalism industry is and how every reporter these days must be willing to work quickly, to learn on the job and to adapt to new demands and new trends in media. That willingness to be flexible has helped me in every position and every newsroom I’ve entered.

Q&A with Jennifer Bringle of Casual Living magazine

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Jennifer Bringle is editor-in-chief of Casual Living, a trade publication in Greensboro, North Carolina. She previously worked at Pace Communications there and at The News & Observer in Raleigh. In this interview, conducted by email, Bringle discusses her job at Casual Living and her move from newspapers to magazines. She also offers advice for students interested in journalism careers.

Q. Describe your job. What is the typical day like at Casual Living?

A. As editor-in-chief, I oversee all editorial operations for both print and digital for Casual Living. That includes building editorial calendars for print and web, managing production schedules to make sure we meet our monthly deadlines, assigning, writing and editing stories and proofing pages.

We’re a small staff of three, so I still do a good bit of writing and reporting myself, in addition to my managerial duties. We also produce a good bit of digital content in addition to our web stories, such as a weekly video series, trade show video coverage and a podcast. I appear on camera/on air for much of that digital content. And of course, I maintain an active social media presence.

Q. How do story editing and headline writing work at Casual Living?

A. We’re a very collaborative staff, so we all work together on the editing process. My senior editor or I will generally edit raw copy in Word. Then we have three-step proofing process once the stories are laid out.

Everyone reads the first round of proofs, then I make changes in InDesign, and everyone looks at the proofs for a second time. Then I input any changes from that round, give it one last look and OK it to go to print. Usually we or the freelance writers we work with write our/their own headlines, but I sometimes change them during the editing process if I think of something catchier or that better represents the piece.

For the web, my senior editor reads over and posts those pieces, and he writes the headlines to help generate clicks. We try to be enticing without going full-on click bait — we’re a business publication, so there’s a more serious tone to what we do.

Q. Earlier in your career, you worked at The News & Observer. What skills that you used at a daily newspaper do you still use today? What new ones have you picked up as you worked for magazines?

A. I always felt like my time at The News & Observer was almost like going to journalism grad school — what an incredible learning experience it was for me at that point in my career!

Working there definitely helped me hone my reporting skills and taught me how to write engaging, accurate stories on a tight deadline. With the way journalism has moved toward web content, it’s so critical to be able to write for a quick turnaround without letting the quality of the work suffer.

As I moved into magazines (first during my tenure at Pace Communications and now in my current job), I got the opportunity to work closer with the art team to tell stories visually and not just through words. I got to do this a bit at The N&O, but because magazines tend to be more image/illustration heavy, I’ve been significantly more involved in this process over the past few years. It’s really fun to me to work with our art director to conceptualize how the magazine will look and bring that to life.

Q. What advice do you have for college students interested in careers in magazines or as freelance writers?

A. To be really successful in this field, you really need to be the total package and open to doing a lot of different things.

I see so many job and intern applicants who obviously really love doing one thing (writing, social media, etc.), and they throw all their focus on that and let other things slide. When I’m hiring, I want someone who’s got it all: good writer, strong reporting skills, digitally savvy, willing to try new things/step outside their comfort zone.

As my career has advanced over the last 18 years, I’ve been challenged to do those things and push myself to learn new technologies or try things that may not be my favorite, like public speaking and appearing on camera. This industry is changing so rapidly, and being able to adapt to all those changes will make you highly marketable to potential employers.

Follow Jennifer Bringle and Casual Living on Twitter: @jcbringle and @CasualLiving.

Student guest post: With more news arriving by email, the impact of headlines grows

Students in MEJO 557, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this site this semester. This is the ninth of those posts. Joseph Held, a senior from Greensboro, North Carolina, is a reporting concentration in the School of Media and Journalism at UNC-Chapel Hill. He has worked as a graphic designer and staff writer for The Daily Tar Heel and as a features writer and editor for Coulture, UNC’s fashion and lifestyle magazine. After graduation, Joseph hopes to write for a human rights organization, creating content that advocates and enlightens.

By 7 a.m., the newspaper has arrived to my doorstep — that is, my digital doorstep, my email inbox. I, like so many others, including 94 percent of top executives, get my news primarily from daily newsletters. But with their continued rise in popularity, these subscriptions increase the need for effective and well-written headlines.

The demand for top story aggregates is high, and both local and national media outlets have noticed. The New York Times, for example, offers more than 60 email newsletters, curating news from general daily updates to weekly discussions about women, gender and society. (An email newsletter about parenting will soon join the ranks.)

Using easy-to-skim graphic hierarchies, news organizations seek to capture the subscriber’s attention and dispense important information in a digestible form. However, a headline is not a story. A deck headline cannot capture the complexities of an article, and in the common format of an email newsletter, this is usually all the subscribers get unless they click to read more.

Therefore, headlines (i.e., the bold text) must be compelling. However, unlike Twitter feeds and news alerts, newsletters have more substance. They have a simplified description of the story, similar to a deck, or secondary, headline in print. This “deck” is a powerful tool to help expand the reader’s knowledge.

Luckily for news outlets, email newsletters have a solid foundation from which to start because at some point, the email recipient subscribed. They have an audience who are at least partially interested in staying informed. Of course, there are those who never open the email and send it straight to the Trash folder.

But for those who open the email, who sip their coffees or ride the train and swipe, the headlines carry a weighty responsibility. The copy editor must know this and is tasked to appeal to two types of subscribers in an email newsletter.

For a portion of the subscribers, the morning email may be the only intake of news they have all day. “Sen. John McCain’s death creates a foreign-policy void,” and the few sentences that follow may be all they get. It’s not an ideal situation, but understanding it as a reality, copy editors must concisely articulate the most important points. This is not the time for the more ambiguous feature headline.

For the remaining portion of subscribers, the newsletters may be the starting point from which they choose stories to read further. A good headline is always engaging. Newsletter headlines are no different, but as they might be the first headlines a reader engages in a day, they can impact a newspapers’ daily online readership. A poorly written headline or summary may diminish the viewership of an important story.

As news companies continue to battle against shrinking attention spans, the daily or weekly newsletter brief provides an effective alternative to thumbing through a newspaper. In a well-designed scenario, these newsletters would heighten reader engagement, informing both readers who use it as their only source of daily news and those who use it as a guide for further reading.

To achieve this, the burden rests on headlines — precise and propelling headlines.

Student guest post: How the media’s fascination with negative news is hurting the industry

Students in MEJO 557, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this site this semester. This is the eighth of those posts. Sara Hall is a UNC-Chapel Hill senior from Apex, North Carolina. After graduation, she plans to attend law school in either Boston or Washington, D.C., but she is unsure of the exact area of law she wants to pursue.

As you spend time clicking through news sites, skimming headlines that roll along the bottom of the CNN television screen and scrolling down your Twitter feed, it seems as though sensationalized, negative stories dominate. Rarely are media outlets filled with feel-good, tug-at-the-heartstrings headlines.

Instead, we see headlines laced with buzzwords, such as “Otto Warmbier’s parents issue blistering response to Trump,” that elicit curiosity and, inevitably, clicks. While the Warmbiers’ response is undoubtedly newsworthy, is the word “blistering” essential to the headline? Or did the editor put it there in hopes of drawing readers’ attention? My suspicion is the latter.

And this type of reporting — using loaded words and fixating on the negative — is not a new phenomenon. Some could argue that this sensationalism stretches as far back as Watergate, where headlines read “Watergate charge evokes image of manipulation.”

However, you don’t see this same infatuation with good news. In fact, you hardly, if at all, see a news outlet that has good news on their home screen or on their front page. Where is the news story praising the man who bought $540 worth of cookies so that the Girl Scouts didn’t have to stand out in the cold weather? Or about the mom who passed around goodie bags to passengers on her flight in anticipation for the 10-hour flight with her 4-month-old? Both of these stories are of extraordinary people who deserve to be recognized, yet you don’t see a major news outlet writing a click-worthy headline for these individuals. Why is it that only bad news is broadcast?

Take NBC’s “Nightly News” show as a counterexample to the norm. The nightly broadcast touches on the breaking stories that nearly every other station covers – shootings, weather devastations, an official’s sexual misconduct. However, something that NBC does differently is that the broadcast ends, every single night, with a heartwarming story about an individual or nonprofit working to better the world. Sure, the broadcast may be a 5-to-1 ratio of bad to good stories, but ending with a story like the mom handing out goodie bags to passengers leaves consumers with a more optimistic perception of the world.

Going back to why journalists only report bad news, I think the answer to that question comes down to what you think came first: the chicken or the egg – the chicken being consumer demand and the egg being news outlets focusing on the negative. Did news outlets start writing solely on the bad just because journalists were responding to the interests of the consumers and these consumers were most interested in the bad news? Or have news outlets always focused on the bad, and consumers have just been conditioned to always expect the worst when they read the news?

Regardless of what you think came first, the pessimism plaguing news outlets is becoming undeniably problematic. As I sat with a group of friends the other day, one said that he no longer wants to read or watch the news because he is “so tired of only hearing about tragedies or catastrophes or whatever the political scandal of the day is.” The rest of the room quickly came to the same consensus: The news is becoming increasingly unbearable to consume.

Maybe these individuals were anomalies, and the rest of the world’s perception of the media industry has not changed. But it’s hard for me to believe that this group of people are the only ones who think negatively of the media’s sensationalism of the bad. And I don’t think it will be long until their sentiment begins to be shared among more and more consumers.