In quite possibly one of the greatest articles I have ever read, The Onion not only destroyed CNN’s ridiculous coverage of the VMA’s and whatever Miley Cyrus did on stage (I still don’t know what she actually did—because I simply don’t care), they also went after the real cause of the almost complete disappearance of quality journalism.
While many stories on The Onion are meant for pure entertainment, there are a few which mock real-life events. This article mocked CNN.com’s managing editor, Meredith Artley, for the website’s choice to make Miley Cyrus the “Top Story” on CNN this morning.
Of course Ms. Artley never wrote the article, as she clarified on Twitter (apparently there are still people on the Internet who don’t know The Onion is satire). But she failed to make any mention of or respond to the very real point the article made, a point I’ve been talking about for years — quality journalism is dying and we’re the ones killing it.
See, while it’s easy to complain about the media (it’s probably second right behind the government), we fail to realize that the media and what they report on is a direct reflection of all of us.
Now I know what some of you are saying, “Well, I don’t read trash stories, I want good news reporting and quality journalism.” Well, if that is true, you’re sadly becoming the exception rather than the rule. But you mean to tell me you’ve never clicked on one of the many stories I see on media sites about “Man Exposes Himself at Taco Stand” or “Butt Implants Are Newest Rage for Men” (yes, this was actually a headline today at the Huffington Post).
What about “Watch This Video of the Most Adorable Kitten Ever”?
Now I’m not saying there’s something wrong with enjoying a guilty pleasure or two, but these trash stories such as Miley Cyrus don’t suddenly become “Top Stories” because CNN wants them to be the headline for the day.
They’re the “Top Stories” because millions of people will click on that garbage instead of reading about possible chemical weapons being used in Syria or actually researching facts about the Affordable Care Act.
My favorite part from The Onion article went into great detail about why media outlets, such as CNN, would push Miley Cyrus and her outlandish behavior so heavily:
But boy oh boy did it get us some web traffic. Which is why I, Meredith Artley, managing editor of CNN.com, put the story in our top spot. Those of us watching on Google Analytics saw the number of homepage visits skyrocket the second we put up that salacious image of Miley Cyrus dancing half nude on the VMA stage. But here’s where it gets great: We don’t just do a top story on the VMA performance and call it a day. No, no. We also throw in a slideshow called “Evolution of Miley,” which, for those of you who don’t know, is just a way for you to mindlessly click through 13 more photos of Miley Cyrus. And if we get 500,000 of you to do that, well, 500,000 multiplied by 13 means we can get 6.5 million page views on that slideshow alone. Throw in another slideshow titled “6 ‘don’t miss’ VMA moments,” and it’s starting to look like a pretty goddamned good Monday, numbers-wise. Also, there are two videos—one of the event and then some bullshit two-minute clip featuring our “entertainment experts” talking about the performance.
Side note: Advertisers, along with you idiots, love videos. Another side note: The Miley Cyrus story was in the same top spot we used for our 9/11 coverage.
Now, let’s get back to why we put the story in the most coveted spot on our website, thereby saying, essentially, that Miley Cyrus’ suggestive dancing is the most important thing going on in the world right now. If you clicked on the story, and all the slideshows, and all the other VMA coverage, that means you’ve probably been on CNN.com for more than seven minutes, which lowers our overall bounce rate. Do you know what that is? Sorry for getting a little technical here. The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page. If we can keep that bounce rate low, and show companies that people don’t just go to CNN.com but stay there, then we can go to Ford or McDonald’s or Samsonite or whatever big company you can think of and ask for the big bucks.
Simply fantastic, because it’s 100% true.
See, consumers are the reason why the media sucks so badly these days. Sure, millions of us will complain about the quality of journalism and how it’s trash compared to generations past, but guess what — they shape their stories based upon what we click, read or tune in to.
Why do you think there are countless versions of the same reality show? How many more “Survivor” shows do we need? Isn’t American Idol enough to find the next singer that will never be famous? And do you really think The Bachelor isn’t completely staged? Hell, you might as well just watch the WWE and pretend that it’s real.
And don’t even get me started on shows like Toddlers and Tiara’s or Dance Mom’s — those parents should be locked up and the show’s producers charged with exploiting children.
It’s all about revenue — period.
The same goes for our government. We whine and complain as if we have no control over what our government looks like, except we elect our politicians much in the same way we determine the quality of our journalism.
If an article on Syria would get 500,000 shares or an in-depth look at Climate Change would get another 200,000 you’d see more time and money put into stories such at those. But trust me, being in this business, those articles will get a small fraction of what borderline trash news stories will get.
But what this Onion article did is lay out exactly what I, and others who believe like I do, have been saying for a while now. Quality journalism is dying and it’s the dependency on advertisement revenue that’s killing it.
However, the revenue generated from these ads comes from “clicks” or “views” — which come from all of us.
So in the end, who’s really to blame? CNN for their ridiculous coverage of a completely meaningless event, or the millions upon millions who clicked every single piece of trash journalism that appeared on their website?
I’m sorry to say, but I can’t really blame CNN — they were just giving most of us exactly what they knew we’d click.