Filed under: Internet, journalism, writing | Tags: america, dark humor, freelance writing, investigative journalism, journalism, news, writing
I’m sure most people have noticed by now that American journalism has become an ever more obvious clusterfuck of misleading headlines and regurgitated stories. Many have asked, “Remember investigative journalism? Whatever happened to that?” The answer: A horrible new business plan.
The past decade has seen magazine and newspaper sales plummet as more and more people get their news from the internet. Consumers found some obvious benefits to the electronic media. The lack of printing allows news outlets to bring readers the news hours after it occurs, and, of course, no annoying subscription fees. However, the near elimination of those Jevoah Witness-like subscription salesmen has heralded the disintegration of American journalism.
Today, companies are no longer able to depend on newspaper and magazine sales. This means they must rely on ad revenue. One might ask, “What’s so new about that?” A couple things. Firstly, in the good ol‘ days, companies would literally buy space in the paper or magazine for their ad at set prices. In the age of the internet, advertisers track how many people actually view the page the ad is on, and how many click on their ads. The news outlet is compensated appropriately. In turn, this causes the douchebaggery known as “clickbait” headlines.
These headlines are intentionally misleading and/or confusing. While the media has always been guilty of sensationalizing headlines, the practice has become more rampant. Although health stories are not the only offender, they are perhaps the most glaring obvious. Popsci lists 9 stories, founded solidly upon bullshit, that created waves of panicky website visitors. Sorry drinking with friends isn’t “good for you,” but on the bright side bacon won’t “give kids cancer.” Unfortunately, you also can’t use chocolate and soda pop to “detect cancer.”
So what gives with the poorly researched (and sometimes equally poorly written) news stories? Well, the lack of reliable income trickles down like urine from a leaky catheter. Many of the writers are compensated so poorly that they just don’t give a fuck. The vast majority of writers are considered “contributors,” which is a fancy way of saying, “contractors” which is a fancy way of saying, “Haha! No benefits for you!”
For those paid a flat rate, working longer than an hour on the article and accompanying research often leaves them making less than minimum wage. However a growing number of news outlets are adopting a model which doesn’t pay the writer for the actual writing, but rather how many people view said writing, and how long they stay on the page. This method is even worse in regards to quality. The writer is more inclined to simply rewrite trending articles with “click bait” headlines, and do no additional research because he or she isn’t actually guaranteed any pay. Investigative journalism is a shambling zombified version of itself because most writers simply aren’t paid to devote that much time to any one story.
One might ask, “What can I do to help prevent journalism from stinking so badly the public will be forced to flush it?” Here’s how: When you read stories you like, spread them; hell, write the editor and gush about it. When you find stories with misleading headlines do not call public attention to them, simply write the editor demanding 100% less bullshit.