I didn’t write this headline, my editor did! Sports journalism today.

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For the better part of the month Detroit Lions fans have been waiting with bated breath as to DeAndre Levy’s status on the team. Relief set in as Levy was activated.

It wasn’t long for the dregs of the sports journalism world to take hold of the story and twist it.

Behind the veil of the journalism world, the industry is in a major shake up. Its the same old song everyone has heard: the internet has changed everything. More than ever, advertisers want to spend their money only where they are getting eyeballs and with the ease of digital publishing, there are more webpages than there are viewers.

This has forced publishers to impose daily traffic minimums for staff writers to meet through social media. So journalists have to adapt to the fickle attention span of the public, most of the time putting out stories that are attention grabbing but have little substance. This is where the infamous “Top 5’s”, the lists, and the slideshows were birthed.

Screen shot of Lion's Beat writer Paula Pasche's list of previous article at the end of her article, "Five things to know about #Lions DE Brandon Copeland and the missing Pringles."

Screen shot of Lion’s Beat writer Paula Pasche’s list of previous stories at the end of her article, “Five things to know about #Lions DE Brandon Copeland and the missing Pringles.”

While formerly a journalist could spend a day focusing on their article, contacting sources and following leads, now they have to tailor their articles to get a minimum number of views and spend part of their work day on all forms of social media.

In a presentation on journalism in the era of social media, former New Jersey Star Ledger beat writer Dan Ivers said that while staff writers get a base pay salary, their bonuses each month are dependent upon meeting their traffic quotas. Ivers explained that while their base pay is enough to live on, the monthly bonus is what makes it worth the college degree it takes to get the job.

Newspaper headlines have always been an issue, when they misrepresent the meat of the article. Often times this is because article headlines are not written by the author of the story.

At the journalism school I attend they actively teach students not to write headlines to the articles they submit for class. A recent article in the Free Press is a prime example of a headline editor misrepresenting the content of the article in favor of more views.

The article, “DeAndre Levy looks better than ever after hip injury, Lions say”  based on the headline means that Coach Caldwell and the Lions administrators are seeing something new from Levy. Once you read the article its apparent that the only one saying anything more than that Levy is looking “good” is Tahir Whitehead.

Whitehead is very excited in the article, saying that the pair are right where they left off. Good news, but not quite represented in the headline.

With quality content going down and the pursuit of web traffic being the greatest priority, journalism is becoming more and more of a commodity. It is a transaction where writers string together low value articles similar to a laborer digging holes. As writers lose interest in their craft (it’s obvious based on their writing) they push journalism to new lows.

Contact me on twitter at @natecheat and join the discussion in our Reddit community!

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About the Author

Nathan Cheatham
Nathan Cheatham grew up in downriver Detroit, and after much traveling landed in Hartford, CT. A journalism major, he has been writing news for the past four years. You can see examples of it at www.facebook.com/cheathamscorner and contact him at www.twitter.com/natecheat. A newer football fan, Cheatham became a Detroit Lions fan soon after the 0-16 season. An avid Fantasy Football enthusiast, he has been running his own personal league for nearly 10 years. Regardless of what some might say, he is convinced the Lions will have Super Bowl Victory next year!