July 29, 2008

TIME OUT: J-Lessons in Spam

Returning from the UNITY journalism conference in Chicago, I checked my e-mail to see if any recruiters or new friends contacted me (recruiters no, friends yes).

Like most, I accumulated pages of spam in my absence. Though my Gmail account filters do great work, I checked of my spam folder to if a message ended up there by mistake. That's when I noticed how enticing spam subject lines have become. Of course, there's still the cryptic ASCII-like text for \/!@GЯª and whatnot.

Maybe because I'd just lived and breathed journalism for the past week, my editor's eye began to see these subject lines as headlines. I gotta tell you, a few laid off journalists must've become spammers because some of these heads are really good.
  • Gay Rights Terrorist Kills Eight in Fabulous Bombing
  • Al Qaeda Reports Declining Revenues in Fiscal '08
  • McCain Sex Tape Surfaces
  • Obama Swears to Get Even
  • FBI Watching Hezbollah in Facebook
Clearly, part of the enticement comes from events that haven't happened -- at least I hope not. A McCain sex tape? Eeesh! Yet these head/subject lines build on topical events. I think there's a journalism lesson to learn from spam, you know, besides it being a future form of employment.

Time Out is a coaching feature of The Latino Reporter highlighting tools for student journalists.