Sunday, January 04, 2015

The news we need isn't the news we get, and it's our own fault

 One way you can save time and a whole lot of negativity is never to look at anything promoted by the King of Clickbait, Emerson Spartz.  Read Andrew Marantz's article at The New Yorker. It's pretty chilling about the, uh, "borrowing" (hey, I don't want to get sued) and repackaging of other people's news content with no regard for actually informing people, being accurate, or any other recognizable component of news.

The writer's tone in that piece is fascinating, too, as if he's watching with horror as an unrepentant cobra goes about its day but is trying to provide an objective view.

The King of Clickbait won't rest, he says, until all the news is tailored to us and our interests, which the information collected in our clickthroughs will tell all the news aggregators. News organizations like The New York Times are twentieth-century losers (I'm paraphrasing).

This is actually an idea as old as the World Wide Web, but I've become more attuned to it recently because of
  • Listicles
  • Headlines that end in a question mark and reveal nothing
  • Numbers in headlines
  • Misspelled headlines, even at The New York Times, to say nothing of the hilarity that ensues when I look at the headlines in our local paper
  • Clickable links at Slate and The Huffington Post that bear no resemblance to the subject matter of the page where they finally take you.
  • CNN. Just look at it, and you tell me what's going on.
  • Yahoo News, which used to be decent 15 years ago but now is basically run by the Home Shopping Network, as far as I can tell from my infrequent visits. This article about Marissa Mayer at least explains why that's so.
Ha! As they say, you see what I did there?


Negativity sells, or generates clicks.  I read recently that a list of the 10 best movies generated far less interest (measured in clicks) than the 10 worst.

We keep clicking on the worst of things, and we anticipate with schadenfreude-laden breath reading something that makes us feel better about our lives by contrast. It doesn't work. It just drags us down into the Kardashian pit of five weird tricks to lose weight.

So the next time some piece of outrage-clickbait (like college football coaches' salaries)  beckons, I'm going to seek out an article on the budget, maybe, or at least Paul Krugman. Think of it as casting a vote for real news with the only currency we've got.

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