Support Quality Journalism. Now.

Ladies, gentlemen, and friends outside the binary, we’ve reached a tipping point in our relationship with the media. Journalism has finally reached that critical mass required for real change.

I could sit here and dissect why this has happened, but frankly, it’s better left to others and we don’t have time for that. We’re in a crisis and the only thing that can fix it is cash money and your eyeballs.

We, the consumer, MUST change our media consumption habits. Now.

We, the consumer, MUST demand better reporting and reject clickbait, entertainment gussied up as news, and opinions dressed up as reporting. Now.

We are the ones with the control.

The dirty secret is that all that bullshit that’s being touted about as journalism doesn’t exist if we’re not there to consume it. We need to stop looking at trash. Now.

Our president has been very vocal about his dislike for the media, as I’m sure many of your friends and relatives have been. So. If you don’t like it, how can we change it? Talk does nothing. You’re going to have to put your money where your mouth is.

Journalism requires money. Quality journalism requires more. There’s a reason why reality shows are so prolific. They’re cheap to produce and inherently lack developed content. Journalism has gone the same way. The institutions that haven’t died off yet have had to change to meet our expectations so they can scrape together what little cash they can and keep their doors open. We cannot expect good journalism for free.

I’m not saying the media is faultless, not by a long shot, but again. We are the source of the revenue. The reason this milquetoast, underdeveloped, bullshit thrives is because we’re literally paying for it. We click and say, “Yes, this is adequate.” We keep coming back for more of the same.

On the other hand, the answer is not to get disgusted and throw up our hands, either. We need to find the good reporting that exists and support that. A rising tide lifts all boats. We need to demand quality by rewarding quality. Now.

How do we do that?

  • You’re going to need to read. Find news sources that are doing the work. If you’re not sure, find articles that have been shared with you and go beyond the headline on your Facebook wall. Dive in. See what that organization has to offer. Read.
  • Turn off AdBlock. If you’re blocking ads, you’re blocking revenue. Support good reporting with your eyeballs.
  • Read the article on the website of the people who reported it originally. Aggregators websites do not create content. They just steal and regurgitate it. This means you will need to follow your news organizations directly, visit their site, their app, their Facebook page… Otherwise, they do not get the ad revenue. Someone else who stole from them does.
  • Subscribe. Do they have a print edition? Sign up. Do they have a digital subscription? Even better. Less dead trees, more money to support good reporting. USE YOUR MONEY. VOTE WITH YOUR DOLLARS. YES, I AM YELLING.
  • Ignore nonsense. Shit is too real for you to care about what quick trick is going to trim inches off your waist, which celeb was caught red handed, 13 times a pizza was the realest, or what tattoo you should get based on your name and the street you grew up on. This is not news.

 

We, the consumers, need to take an active role to control the future of journalism. Blame is bullshit and counterproductive. We need to change. Now.

It starts with you. It ends with you. Do it. Now.

Clickbait is terrible.

I considered writing this post and naming it, “When I see the way article titles are written now, you’ll never BELIEVE my reaction!!!” (Which is annoyed.) But I didn’t want to be a part of the problem. You see, an emerging trend in the realm of digital media/journalism is to have a headline that doesn’t actually reveal what an article is about. You’ve surely seen these online. Let me give you an example I’ve made up:

Newspaper Headline: Food Drive Collects Record 500 Pounds of Goods

Clickbait Headline: When they asked for help, the response had me IN TEARS!!!

The newspaper headline lays out exactly what you’re getting into. The clickbait headline doesn’t tell you the who/what/where/when for a very specific reason: they want you to go to their website. They want to lure you in or trick you into going to their website, so they can show you ads and track your information and get you to like their Facebook page, etc. etc. That’s why it’s called ‘clickbait’. It’s a lazy, deceptive, and gross practice. You’re being misled.

I understand that we’re in a time where people are giving away content basically for free and that ads are paying for the hardware and people that brought me the video of a puppy and baby who are ~best friends~. But often the website bringing you that information via a clickbait headline didn’t make it. They’re just dropping in someone else’s video or a link to a news story where someone else did the legwork. They just slapped it up on their site and passed it around Facebook with their crummy headline. I just think that there’s got to be a better way to go about this. Like producing quality content that will drive people to your site. Partnerships. Anything else. Just make it worth my while to click by telling me what I’m clicking on!

There’s one I just saw on Facebook that had a headline like, “Her dog died due to a TRAGIC mistake. The killer could be at home!” Awesome. Let’s scare people into going to your website. By the way, the dog ate sugar free gum with Xylitol in it, so be careful and keep an eye out for that. It’s harmful to dogs. I just want you to know because it’s important and useful information, no clickbait needed.

There’s a twitter account I love called @savedyouaclick that’s directly fighting against this by doing the same thing I just did and spoiling the headline.

You’re an angel, @savedyouaclick.

I wish I had a more proactive ending to this post, like a suggestion of how to better monetize your website so you don’t have to be a skeezy guy with clickbait headlines. But the reality is that it’s a much bigger problem than one person can fix. All I can do is appeal to the people writing these things and say, “Please don’t be that guy.”