Journalists and Bloggers: Quit Writing Crap

quit writing crapI don’t often break my rant pants out of the closet, but a recent proliferation of one-sided, irresponsible articles link bait has resulted in a desperate plea to all journalists and bloggers: stop writing crap!

Sure, anyone who publishes work wants to get traffic. And attention. And, to a degree, notoriety. But the way to achieve those goals is not by writing sensationalistic pieces that aren’t just misinformed—they’re downright irresponsible.

Case Study 1: Childless People Are Ruining The Nation

Take, for example, a recent piece I read on a heavily trafficked parenting site (and no, I’m not going to do the writer any favors by posting the link). The author (a father) wrote a heavily biased piece about the selfishness of married couples that choose not to have children, claiming this sort of misguided decision results in a number of horrible outcomes including the high probability that they’ll die alone.

Devil’s advocates, I hear you loud and clear. “This guy is a blogger, right? And he’s perfectly at liberty to express his own opinion.” Hey, I’m all about the First Amendment. And just because I absolutely, completely and wholeheartedly disagree with something doesn’t mean it should be published.

But this is one of those pieces that makes such a sweepingly inaccurate generalization that it makes me sad … and more than that, it pisses me off. And when you cite a number of links in an attempt to support your position, well, it makes me think that you’re trying to unearth a grain of credibility in an otherwise barren rationale. And the kicker? This post was inspired by a Newsweek article that claims those who are childless by choice “may spell disaster for the country as a whole.”

Case Study 2: Not A Tech Company? Get Off The Google+ Bandwagon

Another example? A recent article in a local business publication that featured a blatant proclamation about Google+: that is, that any company not in the tech space should steer clear.

This one bothered me (and totally hacked off my usually unruffle-able (it’s a word if I say it is) boss, Shelly Kramer) more than the aforementioned blog post because it’s a piece of journalism—and an inaccurate, one-sided piece at that. Talk about a sweeping generalization—only tech companies belong on Google+? Not hardly. There’s no question that people remain largely divided on the efficacy of Google+. But if your clients and customers (both current and prospective) are there, then it doesn’t matter what kind of company you are—you should be where your audience is. Not to mention that Google+ is packing an increasingly important SEO punch, and to ignore this particular platform altogether is to likely sacrifice some valuable online visibility that can help lead to more sales, more business and more revenue.

At the very least, I would hope an article like this included a viewpoint from another perspective. After all, there’s a high degree of probability that business owners will see this piece, included in a publication that they probably respect and trust, and think they should follow this advice to the T without further consideration or research. And, as a result, they risk missing out on some potentially valuable (and lucrative) opportunities.

Here’s the thing. I know journalists aren’t perfect. No one is. And there’s no denying that a large number of bloggers aren’t trained journalists—heck, a lot of them aren’t even professional writers. And on top of that, sensational pieces have been published long before the Internet arrived—it’s just that today’s technology makes a wider variety of content more accessible (and, in such a crowded marketplace, has increased the likelihood of writing and publishing link bait pieces that are purely designed to attract traffic and reaction—nothing more).

What I really wish, however, is that crap like this wasn’t published—and that if it is written, an editor puts the kibosh on something that’s purely intended to stir the pot. The way I see it, so much link bait is taking up space that should be occupied by thought-provoking pieces intended to inspire action or reflection, yet in a meaningful way.

Writing (and, more importantly, journalism) is a responsibility. And although the proliferation of self-publishing platforms has given anyone the ability to disseminate their thoughts, it’s still a responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly. These days, information is more powerful than ever. And if you’re going to abuse that power, you don’t deserve it.

Image: flattop341 via Compfight cc

  • http://twitter.com/VCP_Tracy Tracy

    You make some good points, but I dont think unruffle-able is a real word, it is a good one and I may steal it!

  • http://www.v3im.com/ Katy Ryan Schamberger

    Steal away, Tracy! Glad you liked the post!

  • John Trader

    Sensationalism sells Katy, and that’s the unfortunate piece to this equation. IMHO, until we change a large percentage of our culture to focus less on the sensationalism of news and more on the practical application of that news and a thorough understanding of news vs. opinions, we will continue to be exposed to this crap.

    Good post.

  • Michael Burns

    I’m impressed with your self control, Katy. Limiting yourself to just two examples? You’re a better person than I. I’m a daily reader of a few dozen stories from legitimate news outlets and even more posts from known bloggers. What sets me off about these “professionals” are the rampant grammatical errors. I can forgive the occasional typo, but barely. I see many. But the new trend of rushing to the wire *and* adding live updates minutes or hours later as events develop. You know what happens … we’ve all done it. Editing while writing leads to fragments or combined/confused sentences when you change a verb tense or move an object to the subject. Again, a forgivable offense until you or your editor publish it on a national news site. Is it the fault of the writer or the editor? Who cares In many cases you can find these errors in the writing of prominent journalists who I assume have the keys to upload and publish without a second look. I;m certain it didn’t used to be this way. It should be again. /rant

    Well done.

  • http://marksherrick.wordpress.com/ MarkSherrick

    rant pants. love it, and need to buy a pair. Where did you get yours, and will they make my butt look good?

    Everyone has the right to an opinion and a point of view, its just a shame that everyone also has the ability to share them in some way. I mean, I’m thrilled that people can express themselves in a way they see fit and give advice they think is valid.

    My current favorite are the disaster hanger-ons. If your blog was not sports or Boston based, you had little to no business writing something about the marathon bombing to attract readers. If your blog was not educational based, anti gun based, or child based, you had little to no business writing something about Newtown to attract readers.

    People writing just to write are not the problem…hell, I write just to write all the time, but most of it doesn’t get the benefit of the “publish” button. People who write just to get readers are the problem. People who write and don’t bother to think about the response they may get are the problem. People who have to be the first one are the problem. There’s more, but my rant pants don’t fit and I need a new pair. :)

  • http://www.v3im.com/ Katy Ryan Schamberger

    SO. TRUE, John! A huge shift would need to happen in order for this sort of sensational crap to completely go away. Hey, we can dream, right???

  • http://www.v3im.com/ Katy Ryan Schamberger

    I’ve thought of many examples since I first wrote this piece, if it makes you feel better :) And you’re exactly right — today’s instant publish culture has, unfortunately, resulted in errors and misinformation running rampant, so much so that it’s hard to discern the facts from the errors. To your point about grammatical errors — you’re exactly right. It’s so easy to tell that copy editors were the first to be let go at publications, isn’t it? Big mistake, in my opinion. You’ve got to have SOME kind of gatekeeper.

  • http://www.v3im.com/ Katy Ryan Schamberger

    Just to be clear, @MarkSherrick:disqus – you’re saying I have permission to check out your butt, right? Hey! I asked! :) I about jumped out my chair and yelled “YES!” when I read your statement, “People who write just to get readers are the problem.” And you identified an entire problematic sub-culture in the “disaster hanger-ons” — IMHO, an especially despicable one. Publishing — whether it’s self or through a company, media organization, etc. — has become ridiculously easy in this day and age, but that doesn’t mean it’s something to be taken for granted. Instead, I think that publishing work comes with a heightened sense of responsibility to ensure that what you’ve written is accurate and, instead of merely stirring the pot, contributes to the discussion in some sort of (meaningful) way. I know, I know — that’s a lot to ask. I guess I better go buy a back-up pair of rant pants, just in case. Come with me and we’ll get you some, too!

  • http://marksherrick.wordpress.com/ MarkSherrick

    You’ll have to ask my wife if you can check me out, Katy Ryan Schamberger but I don’t see the problem. Have Shelly contact my intern, and we will set up the pants trip.

    The disaster hanger ons are a new phenomenon, but are definitely irritating. I’ll mention it here, and if you have seen my twitter feed, you’d know as well, but I don’t publicize it other than that – but I have to watch a very good friend of mine deal with the disaster hanger ons because she is the daughter of the principal from Newtown. Once the marathon bombing happened, I was just watching article after article coming up from people that had no business writing them, and it made me sick enough that I stopped reading the internet news for a couple days.

    Accuracy is the definite thing that has been lacking a lot lately, you are 100% accurate about that. ;) A true writer doesn’t care about being first, they care about being right.

    Hell…I am the living proof that you shouldn’t hit publish just because you came to the end of something…otherwise the guest area of this blog would be full of my random garbage. :)

  • Ding dong

    More link bait.

  • http://www.v3im.com/ Katy Ryan Schamberger

    Mark, you’re full of the quotable gems: “A true writer doesn’t care about being first, they care about being write.” Absolutely!!! It’s a shame this mindset has become so diminished among today’s writers. P.S. Glad we’re on for some rant pants shopping!

  • http://marksherrick.wordpress.com/ MarkSherrick

    It’ll be a blast….and hopefully if we do it right, a writeoff for you guys! lol.

    I am a one liner machine, too bad I try to be a storyteller to often. :)

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