Thursday, April 9, 2015

This Depresses Me

[I think I might make this a regulat feature, because although one doesn't want to dwell on it too much, it is impossible to ignore the sheer amount of depression-inducing material out there.]

Because I am not at all adverse to picking up some extra bucks by freelance writing, copy editing, or proofreading, I scan a number of websites that advertise such jobs, and get email blasts from others. Reading the ads is usually one of the low points of my day. There are the bottom feeders who want to purchase SEO-massaged filler content at remarkable rates ($2.43 net for a 500-word article?). There are essay mills that try to lure down-on-their-luck M.A.s and Ph.D.s to do academic writing for lazy rich kids and others who are ethically challenged. And there are the many, many start-up pop websites that are uniformly looking for breezy, superficial, blandly upbeat, clickbaity writing, and whose appetite for listicles is simply prodigious:

We operate a website that is dedicated to telling stories about why Georgia is the best/coolest/weirdest/prettiest place to live in the United States. We are looking to hire one freelance writer who will write one image-friendly listicle type article every day. We are not looking for straight 500 word essays.

I could multiply examples from here to next week, but you get the idea. The tone of these ads is always the same. Frankly, all the good cheer gets me down. You know that none of the employers want anything truly critical or edgy (although occasionally the appearance of same might be useful).

I understand why this is, of course. People's actual tastes are at some difference from their professed tastes, and in the end, shallow always wins. As George Carlin once memorably bit the hand that fed him, "The public sucks." Derek Thompson at The Atlantic makes this point in a piece concerning his doubts that Millenials are genuinely all that interested in hard news, no matter what they say.

Journalism in the Age of the Accidental News Junkie

To buttress his case, Thompson summons a chart, and this is why I'm writing this post.

Last month, News Whip published its list of the most-engaged stories on Facebook in January 2015 (not most-read, exactly, but similar). "There were few hard news stories amongst the top 150 stories," they wrote, "but plenty of wacky and intriguing stories and lists." Here were the top 15.

OK, I think I'll go pour myself a good stiff drink now. Although I will admit that on some level, that list is pretty funny. As to the 14th item: I'm not concealing my depression! I'm putting it out there!

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