USA Today Used Facebook’s New Emojis on Its Front-Page Stories, and It’s Awkward

Update: Editor says goal was to show how communication is evolving

Headshot of David Griner

Facebook's new emoji-esque "Reactions" haven't launched stateside yet, but USA Today decided to give them an early test run—on its own front page.

The results are … rather awkward. 

A sad face next to a stabbing story? An angry face next to an item on Russian missiles reportedly hitting unintended targets? (There's no questioning the "wow" emoji for Kevin McCarthy's shocking withdrawal from the House speaker race, though. That one's dead on.)

While they stop short of editorializing, the icons do feel like they're trying to reflect how you should feel about the news, which blurs the line of journalistic neutrality a bit. 

We've reached out to the USA Today staff to learn the background of the decision and confirm it wasn't any sort of official partnership with Facebook. We'll update this post if we hear back.

UPDATE (12:20 p.m. ET): We received the following answers from USA Today's editor-in-chief:

AdFreak: I'm assuming this wasn't any sort of official Facebook partnership and was just a way to integrate the idea in a unique way?
David Callaway, editor-in-chief, USA Today: There was no official partnership with Facebook. This was fully an editorial decision. The front page editors discussed putting the new FB emojis on the top of the front page, as a reference to a story about them in our Money section, which brought about the discussion of whether to use them on the stories.

Was there any concern about these emojis seeming too flippant next to serious content like the stabbing or Syria?
Yes, of course there was discussion about being too flippant.

Whose decision was it to use the emojis? Was there much debate among the editorial team? 
My feeling (as editor-in-chief) is that a billion FB users may soon start using these to share stories—all kinds of stories—which of course is Facebook's intention. Social media and its icons are becoming a dominant form of communication in our world. We wanted to show what they would be like if transferred to print.

@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."