Color me impressed… and relieved.
I ran a little experiment on Friday for April Fools’ Day. I didn’t put plastic wrap on the toilet seats or hide plastic cockroaches in anyone’s bed, nor did I fool around with whoopee cushions.
The temptation was real, but I resisted.
Instead, I posted a bit of a trap on our Amherst, Oberlin, and Wellington newspapers’ websites and linked it to Facebook.
The headline dangled in front of readers was, “Modern America: Do folks even read these days?” It was based on a similar test NPR used last year on April 1.
I expected folks to immediately start commenting about their preconceived feelings without actually following the link, as they had on NPR’s site.
See, all too often when we share our writing on Facebook it seems there are plenty of folks eager to share their opinions without reading the article. It’s not uncommon for a flame war to pop up over a question we answered in the third or fourth paragraph of a story. Sometimes we want to rip our hair out. We worked hard to preemptively answer those questions!
There’s little that frustrates journalists more than realizing folks looked at the photo, scanned the headline, and started jumping to conclusions.
But here is where you all made me very happy: The honeyed trap caught almost no one. Those who clicked to read were greeted with our heartfelt message, “Hey, you clicked on the link! You’re awesome!” and a brief explanation of the joke.
We instructed true readers not to comment on the post at all, but just to give it a like.
Between our three publications, the faux article got 33 likes — and one lonely comment.
“Absolutely yes!” a single poster responded to the headline question. “I love reading and have shared that with my daughter (almost 6) and in turn, she loves it, too!”
Reading with a child is a worthy undertaking, and I’m happy to look the other way on this one.
Good job, folks. You made me proud.