In Twitter Age, Headlines Trump Content for ‘Knowledge’



Reading for knowledge? That’s so 2004. In today’s world of sound bites, trending Tweets and viral everything, faking cultural literacy is all the rage. Sometimes the headline may be all that matters. According to this opinion piece in the New York Times, in our quest to constantly be “in the know” at cocktail parties or around the water cooler, Americans aren’t reading the news of the day – or of the moment, in the case of Twitter – for substance or personal education anymore. In fact, many aren’t even reading at all. The writer describes “the constant pressure to know enough, at all times, lest we be revealed as culturally illiterate” and simply knowing that content exists is not only critical, but enough to go on. Today, cashing in on cultural currency means scanning online headlines or live tweets only as long as it takes to cull just enough substance to opine about the issue of the moment at a dinner party or on one’s own social media – often with the caveat of “TL;DR” (Too Long; Didn’t Read). As an AP reporter, I heard the same question from my editors every day: “What’s the lead?” Readers’ increasingly short attention spans mean that the answer to that question is often the difference between a message that wins and one that gets lost in all the noise. Kinda’ puts a new spin on that whole ‘knowledge is power” thing, huh? (Posted by Amber McDowell, @amcdowell1.)