The biggest problem I have with the news today is the commercialization and sensationalism of news stories. Sites like buzzfeed or reddit offer content which touch upon current issues, yet offer little explanation or in-depth coverage of a topic, relying instead on attention grabbing headlines and quick-hit lists which often look meaningful, but offer little of substance.
I myself am by no means above spending a few hours on buzzfeed, but I must remind myself to be careful. Nuggets of entertainment like “26 Issues the United States are not totally united on” can stand in for actual reporting and give the false impression that you are keeping yourself informed about the world. Articles like this are the literary equivalent of junk food, they fill you up but leave you hungry for more half an hour later. Continuing with the simile, an article from the New York Times about the ongoing crisis in Syria offers in depth reporting about an event which could impact international relations for decades to come.
Articles from the New York TImes and similar publications can be long and sometimes dense, meaning that they require more effort than your typical buzzfeed post. The nature of the Internet is such that quick gratification is prized over lengthy explanation. It is often hard for me to read through an entire article from the Economist when a thousand entertaining lists about celebrity dogs are a click away.
In order for the New York Times, and buzzfeed even, to survive, a common ground must be found. As print publications have repeatedly found, transferring their format to the Internet is hard. Media native to the web have a much easier time of attracting followers, simply because they utilize the Internet’s strengths much better. The use of links, info-graphics, and interactive apps is key to garnering hits. At the same time, the content must exist as well; you can only make celebrity dogs sound so exciting. For the sake of their survival, and for our sake as well, both buzzfeed and the New York Times should take a hint from each other. Steps have been made in this direction; buzzfeed offers actual news stories, and the Times incorporates interactive features and graphics into its online stories. But I think that there is much more that could be done. Could a hybrid of buzzfeed and the New York Times be the future of the online media?