By Adam Kress
From the Phoenix Business Journal
If you live in the Phoenix area and spent any time on Facebook or Twitter yesterday, you may have come across a story that a lot of people were sharing. It was titled: “Reasons why Phoenix is the worst place ever.”
Pretty provocative headline, right? It’s kind of hard not to react in some way to such a bold statement.
The piece was published on Vice.com, a popular online magazine that prides itself on going against the grain of mainstream journalism. Vice also has a documentary TV series on HBO.
The column was written by a Phoenix resident, Troy Farah, who also writes music reviews for the Phoenix New Times. His take on Phoenix was hilarious in a few spots, but generally predictable in the ways people always criticize Phoenix (hot weather, boring architecture, snowbirds, etc.)
Farah and Vice have every right to publish a column that in no way could possibly be proven as true. This is clickbait of the highest caliber, and people who run websites like page views. As the person who manages the website you’re reading now, I understand that as well as anyone.
So I had a discussion yesterday afternoon with our Editor-in-Chief Ilana Lowery about whether we should include a short story and link to the “worst place ever” piece in our Morning Edition. That daily Morning Edition is sent out to about 15,000 people via email, and is a combination of the news we produce and also links to other relevant and interesting stories that we think the Phoenix business community would be interested in.
As the person who monitors our site traffic every day, my first instinct was to include the Vice story. How could you not click on that? If they’re going to get tons of traffic from this story, why shouldn’t we get our cut of it?
But the reason we didn’t include it was simple: It’s not news. It’s entertainment, and that’s perfectly fine. It’s just not for us.
However, that didn’t stop ABC 15 and KTAR 92.3 FM from quickly picking up the story and linking to it from their websites. If the comments on their stories and social media shares are any indication, I’m sure they’re getting a ton of traffic.
But therein lies the primary criticism that mainstream journalists face. Is what we’re covering really news? When mainstream media outlets such as local TV and radio stations link to these sort of stories, they are legitimizing the content as news, as opposed to entertainment.
I spoke with a friend last night who used to work at The Arizona Republic. He’s a proud Phoenician who didn’t like the Vice piece at all, but he was more upset that the local news was treating the story like it was something of true news value.
After all, how can it really be news when Vice has also written the following stories: “Reasons why San Francisco is the worst place ever,” “Reasons why Los Angeles is the worst place ever,” and “Reasons why London is the worst place ever?”
Sometimes the “news” is just the worst.
By Adam Kress