There’s a story floating around right now that has me perturbed, and I’m seeing it everywhere: People on Reddit who purportedly have jobs in the fast food industry share their advice on what not to order at a variety of restaurants.
Several publications have written about this Reddit thread. None of them have asked the Redditors to verify that they held employment at the restaurants where they purport to have worked. None have asked comment from the restaurants in their articles on the accusations made in the Reddit thread, which they then regurgitate in their journalism “listicles.” All of them are passing these accusations off as factual news.
The reason: Because journalists who decided to write articles on the Reddit thread found it interesting, and that was enough for a story. Chances are, if you’ve come across this article, it was written by a journalist who read about it at another publication, and decided to “aggregate” the topic themselves. Because, why not? It’s a slow Tuesday. Twitter’s down. It’ll be good for some clicks (or hundreds of thousands of clicks).
A lot of web journalists write articles on fluff topics because the topics are interesting and they think it will drive traffic to their platform. But what is interesting isn’t always news, and what is news isn’t always interesting.
Worse, what’s interesting has, lately, turned out to be a hoax. One that could have easily been prevented by being skeptical of everything, asking a lot of questions, doing a moderate amount of research and — in the end — making a tough decision not to run a story that wasn’t 100% solid.
Journalists should never abandon their principles for traffic.