The journalistic instinct

The journalistic instinct is the hunch that often makes a newspaper editor suddenly change the hierarchy of a story that was scheduled as the main front page story.

It is a quality that is not taught in communication schools, but that emerges in reporters or directors in the last moments of making decisions about the content or destination of information.

The experience, the nose and the knowledge of what the audience may want is what awakens that instinct, something that has also happened to me on several occasions.

I gave an example of this last week when referring to the decision made by the director of Infobae, the most important digital media in Latin America, when deciding the main news.

He chose to give that category to the photographic uncovering of a popular artist rather than to the failed attempt on the life of Argentine Vice President Cristina Kirchner.

Instinct led him to calculate that the apparently banal news about the artist Wanda Narda would interest the public more than the other. And he was right.

I remember something similar that happened with Davis Hunke, the first director of the innovative American newspaper USA Today when it came to light on September 15, 1982, 40 years ago.

Hunke had finished the first edition with a story about the electoral fight in the United States and went to have a few drinks in a restaurant near the newspaper’s headquarters, to get rid of the stress of the inaugural work.

There all the parishioners were talking about an episode that had just happened that day: the tragic death of the famous actress and Princess Grace, of Monaco, in a car accident.

Journalistic instinct told him that this should be the main news, calculating the enormous emotional impact and interest that this event immediately aroused and that he could feel it that night.

He quickly called the closing editor and ordered him to change the order of the news to give Grace the main one, when the newspaper was about to go to press.

That’s how it was.

The next day, USA Today grabbed the audience. And it became, backed by its colorful and innovative television screen-like design, America’s largest-circulation daily newspaper for a long time.