I recently read what might well be the most offensive online article I’ve ever seen on a mainstream television news Web site.
As an online journalist, I’ve seen my share of bottom feeder-type articles, but this one surpassed anything that’s ever graced my inbox.
Which led me to a question which I hope opens the door to some debate.
Are we journalists really giving people what they want? Or are we just performing for an audience of our peers — an audience who loves to forward shocking content to other journalists to show each other samples of what our competitors are doing?
I can’t help but wonder if the majority of clicks that story got were from shocked people forwarding it to their friends to say … OMG, look how horrible. Or worse, OMG, should we be doing this?
By doing so, they did exactly what the article’s author intended … they got others to click on the story too. It doesn’t matter where those clicks came from. At the end of the month, that web site will take those numbers, show them to an advertiser and say “OMG! Look how many pageviews we have! Why in the world aren’t you spending money with us?”
I’ve been in the news business longer than many of the people I work with have been alive. But unlike hardcore journalists who believe that journalism is a sacred art that must not be tampered with, I love change. I don’t want to be one of ‘those people’ who think things were better back in the day. I embrace technology and welcome what it contributes to our business.
At some point, however, someone has to tell the online emperor that he’s not wearing any clothes. Someone has to tell him that he better put on a decent outfit or he will be exposed for what he really is.
The Internet may have opened a world of opportunities for journalists, but that doesn’t give us license to print crap.
At the end of the day, it’s all about balance. While we strive to tease our audience with compelling headlines that will entice them to click on and open our stories, let’s not kid ourselves thinking that the payoff for dumbing ourselves down is a loyal audience. It’s not.
I can only hope that advertisers still agree with me.
One more thing. If you’re wondering where you can find the article that offended me enough to post this entry. Forget it. I refuse to play along in the game its author intended.