When journalism becomes a popularity contest
Monday, July 13th, 2009
WaPo’s web columnist Dan Froomkin gets the ax because his online articles don’t get enough traffic.
Think about all the coverage that will disappear in coming years as this philosophy becomes standard.
Think about all the far away places about which the average person knows little and care less — Sudan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Pakistan, Ghana, Taiwan, South Korea, Peru — that won’t measure up to the web’s popularity standards and slowly disappear as take-it-or-leave-it bundle of The Newspaper is replaced by the “every word for itself” metrics of web publishing.
The HuffingtonPost has stepped up to hire Froomkin — no doubt garnering a nice little spike in page impressions and PR — but is itself on vanguard of the desperate commercial scramble to add frothy content to drive page impressions and revenues. (Right this second the most popular stories on Huffpo are #1 “Sarah Palin’s Most memorable style moments” #2 “Women’s iconic swimsuit movie moments” #3 “ADN confirms, Sarah Palin’s story doesn’t add up” and #4 “Emma Watson’s Wardrobe Malfunction.”)
I’m not arguing that Froomkin was a great journalist or deserved to stay at the Post. I’m just marking this small moment in the shifting climate of publishing, a moment in which web metrics nudge aside the editor’s judgement.