USA Today Pairs Sad-Face Emoji With Stabbing Headline

“Of course there was discussion about being too flippant,” editor-in-chief David Calloway says

USA Today’s Friday front page was more animated than usual — as the Gannett publication paired Emoji characters with front page headlines.

A headline about the stabbing of a U.S. Air Force officer, for instance, was accompanied by a sad-faced emoji shedding a tear. Kevin McCarthy’s dropped bid for speaker of the House got a shocked or “Wow!” face. Russian Missiles hitting Iran? An angry face.

In the paper’s defense, the front page also reports on a pilot program from Facebook that allows users to react to posts in their newsfeed with the animated graphics — as opposed to the static “Like” button.

The move was heralded as “awkward” by publication AdWeek, who spoke with USA Today editor-in-chief David Calloway about the decision, specifically over emoji use in the case of a wounded soldier.

“Of course there was discussion about being too flippant,” Calloway said.

“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,” he added. “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.”

As far as the Facebook program is concerned, users in Spain and Ireland are currently empowered with the little yellow faces. If all goes well, the masses will soon be able to use them.

“We studied which comments and reactions are most commonly and universally expressed across Facebook, then worked to design an experience around them that was elegant and fun,” Chris Cox, Chief Product Officer at the social network, said on Thursday.

Representatives for USA Today did not immediately return TheWrap’s request for further comment.

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