Last year, I woke up suddenly from a hyper-realistic nightmare: it had become commonplace to write articles completely in emoji. As I frantically checked Twitter and came back to reality, I assured myself it was only a dream; this could never really happen to journalism.
I was wrong, so, so wrong. In January, a friend of mine who knew of my terrifying premonition sent me this: The State of the Union translated into emoji by The Guardian. After scanning through the lines upon lines of clapping hands in lieu of applause and American flag sprinkled throughout, I knew my vision was coming true.
It wasn’t an isolated incident. Less than a month later, The Washington Post published an article detailing 2016 candidates’ drug and alcohol histories in emoji: beers clinking for alcohol, a red maple leaf for weed, the hashtag emoji for hashish, a nose for cocaine and a puff of air for nitrous. It included the following key: “Faded icons indicate no evidence one way or the other. Slightly faded icons indicate a rumor. Brightly colored icons mean we know with confidence about a candidate’s drug or alcohol use (or lack thereof).” Of course, it came as no surprise that current president Barack Obama was in the lead with three emoji, though he tied with balloon-huffing Republican senator Rand Paul.
Even if news outlets aren’t directly incorporating emoji into stories, there are an increasing number of stories about emoji being published. Take the recent New York Times piece that asked the burning question, “Should Grown Men Use Emoji?”
This proliferation has also sparked a copy-editing debate: is the plural form “emoji” or emojis”? Since the term comes from Japanese, it’s not pluralized with an “S” in its language of origin, but you could, for instance, use “emoji characters.” However, as Associated Press has decided, since the term is being used in English, it can be pluralized like an English word. CP has yet to take a stance, but clearly I’m in support of the purist sans-S approach.
Given the above evidence, I’m assured that emoji are becoming integrated within journalism. The Guardian, Washington Post and New York Times are some of the most globally respected newspapers, and if all of these have begun to incorporate the elusive characters, this certainly isn’t the last time we’ll see them in journalism. And now that emoji are finally embracing diversity, maybe there is a place for these tiny graphics in journalism—as scary and self-prophecy fulfilling as that concept is.
Image courtesy of Erika Low.