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How Your Favorite Website Is Killing Journalism

By Emily Chambers | Last Week Tonight | August 8, 2016 |


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Maybe not your favorite website, because hopefully Pajiba is doing as little as possible to kill journalism, but most of your favorite sites are probably doing something to march actual journalism off the cliff. But let’s first figure out exactly what we’re talking about.

OK, so it’s not really our fault. Pajiba and other sites similar to it aren’t directly forcing journalism outlets to change. More so websites like ours have found a specific combination of TV and movie reviews, pop culture lists, news-lite items, and personal essays that are resonating with readers. And that’s not a bad thing, necessarily. BuzzFeed, for all of the mocking it receives, actually does some impressive investigating. The perceived leap could be made. Standard news outlets could take elements of other websites in order to increase their failing business model, and keep news production profitable.

Only that would still mean that our access to news items is dependent on our desire to consume them. And we’re historically terrible at doing what’s best for us. Somehow we have to convince people that we need to pay for a thing that not only do they not want to pay for, but they don’t even really want.

Now, usually this is the point in the post where either Oliver or I would come up with a brilliant solution and encourage you to contact your congressperson, but when it comes to good ideas about how to save a much-needed-but-unwanted industry, smarter people than I have come up with jackshit. I could encourage you buy a subscription to your local paper, but that wouldn’t come close to making up for the lost advertising revenue. I could suggest that we lobby our government to subsidized journalism, but that feels like a clusterfuck ripe for abuses and still only slightly better than newspapers being subsidized by billionaires. Or I could encourage you to contact your favorite website and encourage them to employ a reporter to keep tabs on local government. But unless you’re very interested in the zoning debates for the 47th in Chicago, you’re not going to read that column either.

I’ve essentially got nothing. Let’s just sit back, wait for the end of civilization, and check out a hot guy with no shirt on.

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