There has been a sense of unease in Baltimore since the outburst of violence, but with Friday’s announcement that charges will be filed against six officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray that ultimately led to his death, the response has been a mixture of overwhelming positivity and relief.
Step One: Think of a really incendiary title. The more offensive, the higher the pageviews.
Step Two: Set up a bullshit premise. Make sure you’ve done little to no research of the topic on which you’re writing. Who needs facts? Facts are for losers. As long as you write with great authority, that’s all that matters.
Step Three: WRITE, my good man (or woman). Make it caustic. Inflammatory. Downright NASTY. Readers should be able to feel the reverberations of your righteous indignation in every word. If it’s about feminism, write of how “histrionics” and “infighting” are hurting the movement. If it’s about race, decry the lack of national outrage over another murdered black boy, and be sure to name check the only two high-profile black activists you know. Blame the apathy on opportunistic race-baiters looking to make a name for themselves. Invoke a person of color who shares your views. Never mind that a guy who works in the same building as you literally picked apart the same theory you’re attempting to advance. Don’t even bother Googling to check how recently Al or Jesse have spoken/marched with community leaders and residents fighting crime in their neighborhoods. I mean, Googling is hard work. Oh, and do make sure to erase the work of the aforementioned community leaders and residents because none of that matters if there isn’t a high-profile name attached.
Step Four: Hit publish. Chances are, you’ll have an editor who is just as culturally ignorant and intellectually stunted as you, so you won’t have to worry about your work being hacked to pieces. And when the blowback happens–as it always does–make sure you conflate criticism with personal attacks. Tell folks they misunderstood you, that you only had good intentions. Tell them that all of the good points being raised in the piece are being lost in the outrage. In other words, stand your ground.
Step Five: Repeat steps one through four, and give up any chance of being taken seriously.
I get it. The industry is changing and we have to change with it. New media isn’t the future, it’s now, blah blah blah blah blah. But not all change is necessarily good change, and if we’re talking about the kind of change that ushers in another age of poorly written/researched thinkpieces and features, then maybe we need to stop calling this stuff journalism and name it “news entertainment.” When once-reputable sites like Al-Jazeera are steering writers away from researching their stories in favor of faster, less-thoughtful work, it signals a much bigger problem. Journalism isn’t instant oatmeal, nor should we want the people we trust to disseminate information to treat it as such. Being the quickest matters little if your response is as fantastical as a George R.R. Martin novel.
At some point, the “outrage for page clicks” model will stop being profitable. What happens next, then?