You won't believe what happened next! What this cat does will shock you! Now that's a real love story! A list of what you need to know about the latest 90s TV show reboot!
How much do you want to click on these headlines in a day which is already likely filled with stress from your life, job, money woes, the list goes on. But I'm asking, in all seriousness, that you don't.
In a recent New York Times interview with Lupita Nyong'o and Trevor Noah. Nyong'o said that "change only comes when the conversation is happening in all forms at all times."
The interviewer asks if she means like when we only talk about #oscarssowhite in February and gun violence after a shooting.
Noah responds that is a function of how we consume information.
"The media needs to move on or people won't click. When I talk to journalists about how they get rated now, it's not how good they are, it's how many people click on their stories. You can't write about an important issue every day because people will click on it less and less. It's what's next," Noah goes on to say.
As a journalist, that truth is impacting every facet of what I do. I have been in news meetings and conversations with editors as a freelancer where it's asked, "Is this clickbait?" I can be pitching an article about the incarceration rates about a minority group, incidents of selfharm in prison, the lack of nutrients in prison food, and in the end the question on whether or not that will get published hinges on it's clickability.
I have been taken off of working on investigative pieces to write something that will do well online - a unique car, a specifically Canadian moment, a random celebrity dropping into a small community. The prioritization of newsrooms is shifting to meet the click demands of readers to appease the ever more difficult environment of pleasing owners and advertisers.
But I always have maintained that the news industry should not be driven by what people are impulsively clicking on (and scrolling down only a few sentences to read) and instead should be driven by what people need to know to make informed decisions that impact society. This shift in prioritization, beyond being discouraging, is terrifying. When people know a lot about celebrity divorces and cats but nothing about the decisions being pork-barreled through their power structures, that's a real issue.
When I write articles about the justice system, issues with refugees in Canada, and social issues, I am constantly asked "how did we end up this way?" The answer has been with experts, writers, and people living through it, but far too often in today's news cycles the mass population who can actually do something about it aren't aware.
The accessibility to that knowledge is shrinking as newsrooms across the country shrink. You will get a lot more 30 second videos and fun animal stories, but those stories that take a talented, dedicated staff are already starting to disappear. The accessibility to that knowledge is shrinking as freelancers find it difficult to sell well researched pieces for a decent amount of money, when news organizations can grab a story about "I did acid in my high school bedroom and it was weird" for almost no money and the readers will click on it, appeasing the advertisers needs.
This isn't just about job security, although it also is about that (hey I want to get paid a living wage too), this is about a democratic, informed society. This is about building a country and global society with laws and priorities that will benefit future generations. This is about understanding that to protect our natural resources, our minority groups, the characteristics that make our communities a real home, we need to know what's going on. And you need to have someone following it everyday. You need to have journalists who can take complex issues and make them understandable. You need to avoid clickbait and read through an ENTIRE article.
So this is my plea, every time you fall for a clickbait link on Twitter or Facebook, make time to sit down and read at least one full article that's about something other than cats, nutrition, cute clothes, celebrities, or even Donald trump. Read about policy. Read about human rights abuses. Read a profile on someone in your neighbourhood. And please, read the whole thing.
If you do this, or even begin to prioritize it, I have hope that newsrooms priorities will change too.
Kelly Geraldine Malone is a freelance journalist, podcaster, and radio producer based out of Manitoba, Canada