Clickbait and the Death Of Journalism

For the last year or so I have been endeavoring to write a performable stand-up comedy act. It’s part of my bucket list and I have just enough hubris to think I might actually not be terrible at it. For the last three (thousand) re-writes it has begun as a scintillating display of biting wit only to devolve into a ranty feminist TED talk by the end of the first joke, unsuitable for performing in front of anyone but my (much confused) cats.

Today was different. I woke inspired, with a character in my head and a character-based comedy act which seemed like a pretty good idea. The more I wrote, the better the idea got until (by lunchtime) it had gathered enough to momentum to have me investigating local open mic nights, confident that I had finally found “it”.

Two thousand words later and I am scouring local and national newspapers for suitable material, researching current affairs for their comedic potential. Naturally I head towards the Daily Mail, confident that their ineffable combination of right wing propaganda and 1950s moralising will provide me with the comedy goldmine I so sorely need.

What I find instead is a slow sad bell, desolately ringing to announce the death of journalism. For there, amid the opinion pieces on celebrity mothering skills (bad career-women! –don’t they know you should give up your life to have bubba??), political soap-boxing (Boris Bad, Farage Worse) and fluffy, Loose Women inspired gossip rag (Femail for those not familiar) are no less than two articles with unfortunately familiar click-bait titles.

From using your phone at the table to stuffing your napkin in your water glass: Restaurant staff reveal their WORST customers

‘All anyone cares about is the headboard!’ Proud new father shares a touching photo of his wife and baby online – but people are more interested in their BED

If these were printed as small, “and finally’s” I wouldn’t have an issue with them. Sure, it’s lazy but every paper has a man-bites-dog story somewhere. These however are printed as large, middle-of-the-page-with-full-colour-pictures articles, the headlines larger than those accompanying the surrounding stories about Isis and Brexit and all that other boring stuff that the other newspapers are silly enough to value.

So let’s take a look and see what wonders await me behind the enticing headlines. Who knows, perhaps they will contain some valuable social insight.

The first “article” is a collection of quotes taken from an AskReddit thread. For those not familiar, Reddit is a site comprised of varied subject threads (everything from pics of your fluffy pets to political discussion). The AskReddit thread is a place for users to pose questions to be answered by other users. This particular question was   “Waiters of Reddit, what are the worst people to have in your restaurant?” and a variety of waiters, bar-people and service staff weighed in with their own customer pet-hates. Somehow, the Daily Mail then decided that this was article-worthy and casually took random comments from the thread (generally out of context) and failed to so much as attribute them to the users, simply including them with “a waiter said…”  All of which was padded out with unrelated pictures of people in restaurants using phones and stock images of children crying/ covered in food.

And readers have commented in their droves. With a self-righteous fury that only the truly ignorant can muster, the middle classes have spoken and in doing so declared “I pay for my food, I should be able to treat waiters however I want”.

Thanks for that Daily Mail, I’m sure that without your ground-breaking journalism, those readers would have forever been forced to go through life not expressing their sense of entitlement.

The second so-called piece of journalism comes courtesy of man who posted a picture of his wife and newborn child, both of whom were ignored by Redditors in favour of discussing the unusual headboard on his bed. The Daily Fail once again enthralls, describing the father by his username (not even an attempt to contact him and make this into an actual article?) and wrongly attributing the Reddit comments to “trolls”.

Well I’m sure glad I read those two scintillating pieces of journalism. Really I am. What would I have done if it were not for your dazzling reportage granting me these heretofore unknown nuggets of knowledge??

Perhaps I would have been forced to read a proper newspaper, containing some actual news! Now there’s  a controversial thought.