Cash for clicks?

May 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

In the ever-changing world of journalism, journalists must fight to stay ahead of the game, be the first to cover stories, and get the facts straight. Online journalists, especially, face great competition in posting a story that will be read instead of another news site’s coverage, or a blogger’s post, or a youtube video. One of the greatest features of the internet is the rate at which we can find and utilize information. Using various modes of communication, from word of mouth to twitter, journalists build stories for their readers as quickly as possible, to provide them with the most accurate and fulfilling stories possible.

However, this article from mashable.com points out that journalists may, in the soon future, be paid based on the number of clicks they receive on their stories. Though this could provide journalists with more motivation to cover stories faster and more accurately, it could also lead to sensational journalism, according to this New York times editorial.

The National Enquirer commonly uses sensational journalism to sell stories

Frank Luther Mott defined yellow journalism in terms of five characteristics:

  1. scare headlines in huge print, often of minor news
  2. lavish use of pictures, or imaginary drawings
  3. use of faked interviews, misleading headlines, pseudoscience, and a parade of false learning from so-called experts
  4. emphasis on full-color Sunday supplements, usually with comic strips
  5. dramatic sympathy with the “underdog” against the system

In the glory days of yellow journalism, stories were about selling papers; the content became of secondary importance. With online journalism being so easy to gather information without knowing it’s accuracy, paying journalists for number of clicks could become a dangerous practice very quickly. The spread of inaccurate information could skyrocket, in efforts to give the reader the juiciest story.

Journalists already have enough responsibility, incentive, and motivation to report the facts in a prompt, efficient fashion. Adding promotions based on number of clicks would create, I believe, room for error and a sense of rushed and desperate journalism.

What’s your opinion? Let CC&H know your thoughts on paying journalists cash for clicks.

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