Learn to respect your followers and readers

We aren’t making our content for views or clicks or likes. We are doing it for people.

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I was reading a Christian blog post tonight that gave advice on how to approach social media. The post was a listicle with seven rules we just have to know to survive in the big, bad world of Facebook, Twitter and all the rest.

Maybe you can hear the sarcasm in that last sentence.

I didn’t start reading with a bad attitude. That didn’t develop until I noticed the click-bait design of the post. I had to click next for each of the “seven rules,” which were fairly short and would have been much easier to read on a single page.

You’ve seen the same design on posts with titles like, “25 Celebrities Who Got Fat” or “The 30 Worst Outfits on the Red Carpet.”

These posts are put together so that you have to click through to a new page for each small piece of information. The page is designed to have a photo and small amount of text surrounded by a bunch of advertisements.

Every time you click next, it helps generate money for the publisher through those ads. It takes a lot of clicks to make money this way, which is why some publishers use this click-bait design.

They don’t really care about the reader, they just care about the clicks.

The Christian post I started reading tonight had the same design on a page with nine ads covering the top, bottom, left and right.

Now I don’t begrudge anyone from making a living. I paid my bills for more than 20 years as a journalist writing for small town newspapers. But in the newsroom you learn to respect your readers … or you learn to do something else.

I think the same has to be true online with our posts on blogs and social media. We have to respect our followers and treat them well.

Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.”

In the end, we aren’t making our content for views or clicks or likes. We are doing it for people.

The more we respect them, the more they will respect us.

The alternative is that they will just click escape.

Using your talents to serve the Lord

Each of us has talents and gifts. Like the Newsboys, we make the choice every day to use them for God’s purpose or for our own.

 

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Michael Tait of the Newsboys at the Oil Palace in Tyler, Texas.

I gave my wife Newsboys concert tickets for Valentine’s Day. The first concert we went to together was the Newsboys 14 years ago, so the band holds a special place in our relationship.

Plus, the guys definitely know how to put on a show, which is important to an old rocker like me. Michael Tait owned the stage and drummer Duncan Phillips played while his drum kit turned on its side and started spinning. Loud guitars and lasers, they put on a killer show.

The Newsboys play Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) or what I call Jesus Rock and Roll. Thank you, God, for rock and roll!

But I got much more than a great show with my ticket. I received an object lesson in using your gifts.

Peter wrote, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10)

I believe the Newsboys concert was an example of what that should look like.

The current lineup of Tait, Phillips, Jody Davis and Jeff Frankenstein are definitely rock stars, make no mistake. My first concert was Billy Joel at the Spectrum in Philadelphia back in 1980 and I’ve seen a lot of big-time acts since then, so I feel confident when I say that the Newsboys would be successful in any music genre.

But they choose to be different than “mainstream” musicians in some important ways.

For instance, next to the booth selling concert t-shirts (yes, I got one!) was a booth helping people with a free prayer app, and before the concert began, someone came out and led the audience in prayer.

Between the opening act and the Newsboys, a pitch was made for ChildFund International, an organization that “protects children’s well-being by strengthening relationships among children, parents, community members, local organizations, teachers and schools, governments and others.”

And this wasn’t a quick one-liner to glorify the band. It was an involved presentation built into the format of the concert and ChildFund information was available all over the venue.

Real people stepped up to help children in need across the world that night — and every concert this tour — because the Newsboys are using their God-given talents to improve the world.

Each of us has talents and gifts. Like the Newsboys, we make the choice every day to use them for God’s purpose or for our own.

Paul urged us to work with all our hearts for the Lord and not for men. (Col 3:23)

So, who are you going to serve with your talents?

Give your neighbor a break

“Do not judge, or you to will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

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“There but for the grace of God go I.”

I once saw a man drive away from a gas pump with the nozzle still in the tank. I was standing at the neighboring pump, getting my own gas.

The nozzle popped loudly when it came out. He immediately stopped and jumped out of the car. He was a clean-cut, 30-something professional type, very embarrassed by what he’d done. He just kept stammering, “I can’t believe I did that,” more to himself than to me.

I just said, “Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.”

Which is not entirely true, of course. I’ve been pumping gas for 37 years and never left the nozzle in the car. But I have done some really stupid stuff.

Like once I nearly knocked myself out by walking into a speed limit sign.

It was early in my journalism career at the Athens Daily Review and I was keeping an eye on a motel with a reputation for drugs and prostitution with our photographer. We thought we were going to break a big story, but the only thing we almost broke was my nose. A mathematician couldn’t have done of better job of measuring my steps in order to hit that sign with maximum force.

Like I said, stupid. I was looking at the motel instead of looking where I was going.

We’ve all had those moments.

So I wonder why we are critical when other people make mistakes.

Matthew 7:1-2 says, “Do not judge, or you to will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (NIV)

That verse gets thrown around plenty by Christians and non-Christians alike. Much of the time I hear it being used to try and stop people from discussing various moral issues.

But what if it isn’t that complicated? What if it is just about giving our fellow humans a break?

Like the waitress who forgets the water. Or the driver who doesn’t see the light turn green right away. Or the salesperson who needs help ringing up a purchase.

You get the idea.

Maybe all those annoying moments would be easier to experience if we remembered that we all, at some time, have been just as annoying to someone.

Maybe that’s the great equalizer.

Judge others the way you want to be judged. After all, there but for the grace of God …

RIP Steve Buttry

Steve Buttry was an influence on a generation of journalists.

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Steve Buttry

Steve Buttry helped make me the journalist I became and was an influence, at least in part, on the creation of Henderson County Now.

He died Sunday, Feb. 19, of pancreatic cancer at the age of 62. The world of journalism is a poorer place today.

I only met Steve once face-to-face. It was at a long-ago journalism conference where he conducted a workshop on breaking the inverted pyramid, the reporter’s well-worn and boring story form. I remember talking to him afterward and him digging in his bag to give me a homemade CD with an assortment of his articles.

I held on to that CD for more than 10 years, accessing it frequently.

Steve called for innovation and a return to storytelling. Unfortunately, I turned out to be a terrible storyteller. The idea for innovation stuck, however, and as an editor, I was able to use Steve’s ideas and techniques to mold my newsrooms.

For a time I even did some reporter training for CNHI, the company that owns the Athens Daily Review. I based the training on Steve’s ideas.

Steve was an advocate for a digital first approach to journalism and worked on the American Press Institute’s Newspaper Next project. He wrote about his thoughts often on his blog, “The Buttry Diary.”

Posts from that blog influenced the digital media approach I developed while at The Malakoff News in 2010-2012 and in time saw come to fruition at Henderson County Now.

I wish I could tell Steve what a big impact he’s been in my career. I wish I could thank him for letting me know it was OK to go in a different direction. But Steve is gone now and there is only one I can think to do even though he might say it was obvious and cliche …

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