With any news medium, there is a lucrative niche wherein shoddy journalism (I’m looking at you, Rupert Murdoch) thrives. Luckily, the best that Star Magazine can do is appeal to your need for gossip while you’re in the check-out line.
Unfortunately, the latest form of content-free journalism is not confined to a small rack next to the Junior Mints. Rather, it is a ubiquitous member of the infosphere. The apex predator, if you will.
I speak, of course, of the listicle.
It’s a portmanteau of the words “list” and “article.”
You know the ones. “7 Reasons Why Ron Weasley is the Best Best Friend Ever.” “27 Things You’re Only Afraid Of If You Live In New York” (both from Buzzfeed).
It’s ingenious, really. Not only will you get people who live in New York to give you scads of page views so they can revel in their trademarked pretension, but people who want to be in on the joke will click too.
Not that that’s intrinsically bad. All’s fair in love and ad-revenue generation.
What bothers me is that the articles are pointless.
Not in the way that playing video games or watching a good movie is “pointless,” because there is still content there.
There is just nothing much in that particular listicle – or any listicle, for that matter. Really, it should be named “27 Things You’re Only Afraid Of If You Live In Any Major Metropolitan Area.”
Let’s take a look, shall we?
Wait, really? You think that rent is something that you have to live in New York to be scared of? Not only will you find terrible rent prices in every city in the world, but it applies to more rural areas as well. Hell, even feudal serfs used to wring their hands over rent.
It was pretty much all they had between them and the chopping block.
Bedbugs, scaffolding, identity theft. None of it’s even remotely exclusive.
Not only will the content be essentially valueless, but what little there is will be endlessly recycled. As it turns out, what New Yorkers are afraid of is what pretty much everyone else is afraid of, too.
Additionally, the reporting on Buzzfeed and sites like it is sketchy at best. If you’re lucky enough to find a listicle with some words placed under the oversized pictures, the writing will almost always be editorializations.
If not, then it’s most likely been copied and pasted straight out of another, more well-written article.
The result is that a bunch of people are essentially reading nothing and then going on to the next bit of nothing that happens to catch their eye.
Perhaps it’s an intrinsic quality of our generation that we have to look for the most superficial entertainment possible. But if you ask me, that’s just sad.
Previously published in the print edition on March 17, 2015.