Two-Way Street

Would You Like a Tee Shirt with that Headline?

This must surely be one of the Seven Signs of the Apocalypse (... at least if you are a journalist).

CNN is selling tee shirts. In its news space. ... a little icon right next to the headline.

Huh? That's like opening up a ... a ... well, a tee shirt stand in the middle of a church. You don't commercialize your headlines. That's a no-no. Your headline is how you impart news, your core product and mission, to your reader. It's not about making a buck.

CNN seems to only be doing it with less sensitive items and only with videos. Still, that little icon trivializes the message. It says we're in it for the money, not the mission. Cutesy headlines aside, for all the blood, sweat and tears that go into the overall mission of journalism, selling tee shirts is, frankly, insulting, both to the profession and you, the reader.

But I guess when times are tough, you do what you can. Better than layoffs, most folks would say. I'm not so sure. Hey, I'm not against selling tee shirts ... I just don't think you should do it right next to a headline. Usually such icons are reserved to communicate things of added value to the reader -- like the item includes video or multimedia. Selling stuff should go into the regular ad spaces.

Folks in the organization tell me it's part of a campaign aimed at capitalizing off of the constant back and forth about headlines.

Full disclosure: I used to work at CNN, a division of Time Warner . I don't think I'm a Disgruntled Former Employee. In fact, I love the joint. I guess that's why this disappoints me so.

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