We want people to read the stuff we write here. If we claimed otherwise you’d know that The Daily Banter wasn’t worth your time because it was staffed by a bunch of liars. Despite that, we’d appreciate it if the reason you came here, read the material we crank out, and shared it with your friends had something to do with the quality of the journalism — or at the very least the wise-assery — as opposed to a lot of silly tricks aimed at making sure your Facebook feed is littered with our headlines and our writers. We love it when something we publish goes viral or gets attention, but I hope we’re not willing to sell our souls in the name of the almighty click. You want that kind of thing, Buzzfeed is more than happy to accommodate you.
Neetzan Zimmerman feels differently, however. In the eyes of the wizard whose knack for crafting viral content at Gawker was so impressive that the Wall Street Journal devoted an entire profile to praising him, getting people to click isn’t simply a part of online journalism, it’s the only part — the only part that matters anyway. Got an intriguing point to make on an important subject? Who fucking cares? Just devote 15 minutes to creating a catchy headline, show some sideboob and you’re golden. Think your job as a journalist is to serve and inform the public, to speak truth to power, and to honor the awesome responsibility afforded to you by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Whatever, pussy. Integrity is for suckers; your “news” isn’t really news if it isn’t being shared on Facebook along with some cat pictures and life advice from an 18-year-old girl hazzing a sad on Thought Catalog.
If you think I’m exaggerating about any of this, you really need to watch Jordan Klepper’s interview with Zimmerman on last night’s Daily Show. Klepper did a balls-out brilliant report ridiculing the new normal in online journalism, which involves the relentless pursuit of page-views, with concerns about the actual quality of the content barely entering the picture. It would be great to think that because he’s on The Daily Show, Zimmerman is doing deadpan, but you know, I honestly think he’s completely serious when he says basically that journalism schools are worthless if they’re not teaching their students how to “craft the perfect story for the viral web” and that “it’s not important if a story is real” as long as people are clicking on it.
Yeah, going viral is important for both your standing as an outlet or a writer and your financial bottom-line. Nobody’s downplaying that. Also, when tweaks are made to stories that are intended to help streamline them for maximum exposure, this is generally a positive rather than a negative. But the content has to be there. If you’re interested at all in being taken seriously as a news outlet, people have to know that you’re offering more than just clever headlines designed to get potential readers no further than sticking their foot in the door. What’s worse is when Zimmerman’s emphasis on clicks-over-content is applied to ostensibly legitimate news, because then what you get is Salon, where the entire idea becomes to troll the audience into hate-reading. It’s a cynical way of doing business, to say nothing of practicing journalism.
Jesus, imagine an entire internet full of Neetzan Zimmermans bringing us our information. There wouldn’t be enough GIFs in the world to illustrate how fucked we’d be.
By the way, how was my headline? Catchy enough?
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.