When I opened submissions for my satirical newspaper, The Atlanta Banana, in 2011, I was overjoyed to get a query within 24 hours. But when I read it, I realized that it was basically a slam piece against a blogger written by someone who had recently parted ways romantically with that blogger.
I explained to the submitter that it isn’t really the point of satire to make fun of people, but to describe an undesirable facet of human behavior — usually in general, rarely in specific — in an oblique way. That, and I don’t really want to get into other people’s relationship problems.
The submitter was surprised I didn’t want the slam piece. Wasn’t it my purpose to get clicks, gain site traffic, sell advertisements and thereby make money?
The Entertaining News
When the internet happened we told each other that giving everyone in the world a voice could only be a good thing. The common man would rise above the corporate overlords! And, to be fair, he seemed to. But with everyone talking, people whose livelihoods depend upon being heard had to find a way to keep being heard.
Quickly, they discovered clickbait.
I don’t mean to suggest that clickbait is new. The phrase “film at eleven,” is pretty clickbaity. Carnival barkers are sort of like human clickbait: step inside this canvas tent and see just how bearded this woman really is.
Lately I’ve seen a lot of tweets railing against the media for clickbaity journalism. It bothers me too. But yelling at the media for running with clickable content is like yelling at MTV for being full of reality shows. They’re only giving us what we responded to.
The only answer is to change ourselves. We don’t have to click, after all, but then again, if we had the impulse control to avoid that which is entertaining even though it shouldn’t be, MTV would never have given us the Jersey Shore, we’d never have met Nicole Polizzi, and the world would have been denied another New York Times bestselling fiction author.