Area Facebook Employee Wishes Somebody Would Do Something About All These Shallow Viral News Stories

A blog about business and economics.
May 22 2014 2:31 PM

Area Facebook Employee Wishes Somebody Would Do Something About All These Shallow Viral News Stories

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If only there was somebody out there who could influence what's popular on social media.

Photo by Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images

Mike Hudack works at Facebook. He's apparently pretty important there. His title is "director of product management." And he has had it with the news media, especially online outlets with their salacious gossip and click-baity listicles. So he vented his frustrations today on his Facebook page. (This part follows after his sweeping dismissal of legacy news organizations).

And so we turn to the Internet for our salvation. We could have gotten it in The Huffington Post but we didn't. We could have gotten it in BuzzFeed, but it turns out that BuzzFeed's homepage is like CNN's but only more so. Listicles of the "28 young couples you know" replace the kidnapped white girl. Same thing, different demographics.
We kind of get it from VICE. In between the salacious articles about Atlanta strip clubs we get the occasional real reporting from North Korea or Donetsk. We celebrate these acts of journalistic bravery specifically because they are today so rare. VICE is so gonzo that it's willing to do real journalism in actually dangerous areas! VICE is the savior of news!
And we come to Ezra Klein. The great Ezra Klein of Wapo and msnbc. The man who, while a partisan, does not try to keep his own set of facts. He founded Vox. Personally I hoped that we would find a new home for serious journalism in a format that felt Internet-native and natural to people who grew up interacting with screens instead of just watching them from couches with bags of popcorn and a beer to keep their hands busy.
And instead they write stupid stories about how you should wash your jeans instead of freezing them. To be fair their top headline right now is "How a bill made it through the worst Congress ever." Which is better than "you can't clean your jeans by freezing them."
The jeans story is their most read story today. Followed by "What microsoft doesn't get about tablets" and "Is '17 People' really the best West Wing episode?"
It's hard to tell who's to blame. But someone should fix this shit.
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If only we, the American people, could summon a champion. Someone who could, with the change of a single algorithm, turn the entire media ecosystem on its head. But who?

As usual, the Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal had a polite and thoughtful response.

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Al Jazeera America's Evan Hill, who it should be said spent a long while reporting from Egypt and Libya before joining the Internet hordes, put it a bit more succinctly.

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Jordan Weissmann is Slate's senior business and economics correspondent.

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