Words – Metro (NY)

The more I look at Metro, the more I get the impression that it can’t quite decide on its tone. Now, Metro’s two main stated goals are to keep a young, sophisticated, professional audience, and to deliver the news in a form that can be read during the morning commute. It seems to me, that Metro has thought about what words work for its target audience and mashed those words together with words that can deliver the news efficiently.

For example, both of the following headlines can be found on the A1 of a single edition: “Sky-high nuptials for Queens couple,” and “Man steals truck, causes fatal crash”

The first headline is energetic, evocative, and is splashed across the page in a massive font-size. The second is very direct, informational, efficient, and printed much smaller. You can read it and basically know what the story is.

It’s a little hard for me to look at the two headlines on the same page. I get that the content of the stories is very different. But it seems to me that the editors looked at the two stories and said, “Ok the first one is featury, let’s use our fun voice. The second is newsy, let’s use our cut and dry voice,” and I’m not sure it works very well, particularly when the two stories are on the same page. It causes me to stop and wonder what I’m reading or what I should expect out of the section. It makes me more aware of the word choice than I think I aught to be.

The same issue persists in the pull quotes and captions – in basically every category of word choice. Fun, featury stories get the energetic, emotional wording. Pull quotes from newsy stories are often the bland statements of boring bureaucrats.

Now the problem might just be organizational. If the two stories were tucked into different sections, I think the variation would play better.

Finally, I just want to recognize that I’m not necessarily the paper’s target audience (after all I’m not employed and I’m overwhelmingly not sophisticated), so my reservations about the clash in word choice might not even register for the average user. The average reader might even be so comfortable with the paper that he expects the variance and uses it as a cue on how to read the story. Also, I may not even ever have considered it if I hadn’t been assigned to look closely at the wording. But now that I’ve noticed it, I can’t help being a little bothered by it.

Cameron Young