I guess you’re wondering where the video of this verbal altercation is. Don’t worry, we’ll get to it. To be honest with you, I wrote the title as a joke, only to figure out that Ann Coulter has publicly criticized Sarah Palin at least a couple of times. So there goes that whole gag. The fact remains, they’re both attention trolls and every time you react to them, their relevance in the Fox News bubble is extended by another 15 minutes. At the rate y’all are going, we’re going to be stuck with them forever.
Gather around everyone, we need to have a little talk. I know how people keep saying that we need more journalism that focuses on the real issues. Some get upset every time a website publishes yet another story talking about the most recent barely coherent remark by Sarah Palin, or the professional trolls like Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh. I’m sure that some people will only read the headline of this story and leave some comment on our page like “WHY DO YOU KEEP GIVING THESE PEOPLE ATTENTION??!!! IF YOU STOP COVERING THEM, THEY WILL GO AWAY,” along with a couple other folks leaving the usual sexist or transphobic remark toward one of the two mentioned.
Here’s the deal: If you want real stories, you’re going to have to do more than ask for them. You’re going to have to actually read them and share them – on a regular basis – while ignoring the clickbait.
In the world of journalism, whether print or digital, there’s an old saying: “If it bleeds, it leads.” In other words, use the shocking stuff on the front page to sell a paper or click on a link. Just look at the cover of today’s New York Post for proof of exactly that (I’ll warn you, it’s graphic and there’s already outrage being expressed over it – you can view it here).
Now, let’s be honest, how many of you clicked on this headline simply because I mentioned the names of Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, and Fox News along with the dirty temptation of seeing Sarah make a drunken fool of herself?
This is why TMZ exists, or why Fox has so many viewers. This is why a story about the latest dumb thing a Kardashian did gets 100,000 times more traffic than an investigative journalism bit on net neutrality or something else that actually matters. Sure, there’s some non-profit or privately funded organizations and blogs that don’t rely on web traffic and advertising to stay afloat, but can you name any off the top of your head? Traffic equals profits, thereby the phrase “if it bleeds, it leads” and the need to be first on the story, accuracy be damned.
In previous decades, the journalistic mission was to report the news as it actually happened, with fairness, balance, and integrity. However, capitalistic motives associated with journalism have forced much of today’s television news to look to the spectacular, the stirring, and the controversial as news stories. It’s no longer a race to break the story first or get the facts right. Instead, it’s to acquire good ratings in order to get advertisers, so that profits soar. (Source)
Want examples? How about this website which incorrectly reported the name of the officer who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson based off an unverified report through an unverified account allegedly connected to Anonymous? The disclaimer “however, they may be wrong!” was only added after it was revealed that Bryan Willman was not the officer involved. They weren’t the only site that did it – here’s another one with an added disclaimer after the fact, instead of removing the story entirely and issuing a retraction. And another one – same deal. Why not remove the stories and update with a retraction and an apology? Because then any searches for the story would be less likely to drive traffic to their websites. Now, whenever someone Googles Bryan Willman’s name, he will forever be inappropriately associated with shooting Michael Brown – all because SEO and profits first, accuracy last.
Want another example? How about one from our site? I published an article yesterday using Bobby Jindal’s horrific budget issues here in Louisiana as proof that trickle-down economics is nothing more than a scam and that red states are usually the biggest dependents on federal money. If people were really that concerned about stories that matter, a couple of 3 or 4 day old links about someone embarrassing themselves on Fox News wouldn’t have about 7 or 8 times more views than something that took apart a state budget, and broke it down for everyone to understand. Is that annoying? Yes. Am I shocked? Not at all.
Publishers see what articles get traffic and which ones do not. Anyone who wants to continue to remain in business, whether in news or anywhere else, adjusts based off what the consumer wants. If I were to set up a food truck selling beer and pork chops in Saudi Arabia, how successful do you think that business would be? The same thing holds true in media. If you want news that matters, as I said before, you can’t just demand it. You have to give time to the real issues, you have to read the stories about important things and share them while ignoring the “You Won’t Believe What SHOCKING Thing Ann Coulter Said About Michelle Obama” clickbait. That’s the only way to change the news cycle as we know it – it’s that simple.
Now here’s a video since I promised you one:
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