Skimming the Line

I was in a newswriting course when I first discovered theSkimm, a daily… news update, we will call it.

For those of you who are unaware of this source, here’s something to skim on theSkimm:

Founders Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin met in college and both landed careers as NBC News producers. Of course, the two quickly became news sources to their friends realizing that most people did not have the time or interest to read the newspaper. They launched theSkimm.

Every morning of the business week theSkimm sends out an email to subscribers giving the main ideas the day’s major news stories. For a young college student plagued by quizzes requiring me to recall such information, theSkimm became a part of my daily routine.

I became a Skimm’r.

Reporting on “lit-ter-ah-ly everything” and using trendy lingo and catchy tag-lines, it’s easy to see why the publication is a staple in my news consumption. I believe it’s a great source and makes news interesting and relevant to readers. theSkimm is the first thing I check in the morning and does a great job reporting what I want and need to know. It even includes funny anecdotes.

Everyone started Skimming, even Oprah gave the newsletter her stamp of approval. Many celebrities publicly swear by theSkimm and investors are totally freaking out.

On December 14, 2014 I began to seriously question my loyalty to theSkimm. They had already published an anecdote in October about UNC’s recent academic scandal, shedding a not-so-flattering light on my beloved campus. I brushed it off because, let’s be real, who didn’t? But today was different; I began to draw the line.

When does media go from being cheeky and clever to inappropriate and in poor taste?

For me, it was here:

theSkimm Screen Grab

If you didn’t catch it, the anecdote said the gunshot victim had a “good shot at a starting spot next season.”

Something so easy to skim over was blatantly obvious to me. Was the word used on purpose or simply overlooked by editors? Either way, the inclusion of it in the story was careless and truly something I was saddened by.

I still subscribe to theSkimm but have recently been deleting the email without opening it. I am sure one day, before a news quiz, I will Skimm again, but with caution.

The incident prompted me to think about how I tell stories. The SPJ Code of Ethics instructs journalists to show compassion for victims in news coverage, something I think theSkimm failed to do.

In a media age where outlets are fighting to stay relevant and engage audiences is this permissible? Does this goal outweigh our ethical code as journalists? I do not believe it does and I hope it never will.


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