List journalism can strike at anytime: on Facebook, Twitter, or even the screen of your iPhone. The epidemic doesn’t discriminate.
I am a victim of list journalism. It was an average Wednesday in O’Neill, when all of a sudden “15 Signs That You Are The Late Friend” struck my newsfeed. The “article” wasn’t just a brief eyesore, but instead spread rapidly across the Internet. Since it was posted on October 12, the list has reached 83,100 shares.
Does anyone need 15 signs to determine whether or not he’s the late friend? It only takes one. You’re always late. Simple.
The Internet has been a double-edged sword for journalism. The exponential increase in media outlets has empowered many who were previously restricted by the confines of print journalism to share their voices and thoughts, but it has also invited in a new kind of journalism that thrives on the quick and easy article rather than well-written, thought-provoking work.
Soon BuzzFeed came along, and presented itself as a seemingly innocuous new media company. We embraced the “listicle” format for quick access and easily digestible info. “19 Toddlers Who Can’t Even” made me chuckle, as did “7 Ways Lizzie McGuire Got You Through Middle School.” But that wasn’t writing. I wouldn’t praise my mom for nailing exactly what I was craving on her grocery list, so why would I commend someone for writing a grocery list of vague, universal human experiences?
Lists have always been used in journalism, but today it appears that lists are all journalism is. And the vast prevalence of listicles is where the issue lies. The next generation of writers is growing up on content that provides instant gratification and blunt points. There’s no story telling in articles when they’re written in the LOL, Beyoncé GIF, in-your-face style.
The Gavel drank the listicle juice for some time. It was 2013, the organization was still gaining traction on campus after a website redesign. We were vulnerable and desperate for attention, and isn’t that all list journalism is for college students—a cheap ploy to gain approval for our own humor and writing skills?
Luckily, many serious media organizations have moved away from list journalism. Sure, a “7 Ways to Spruce Up Your Dorm Room for Fall” pops up every once in a while, but it can be tasteful and seasonal, as long as the media organization doesn’t only produce lists.
Stubborn websites like the Odyssey still provide an environment for college writers to churn out a list and share it across the Interweb, but we as college students should not tolerate this behavior any longer. We need to ask for stronger op-eds and engaging features pieces from the writers on our campus. We need to stop encouraging the dissidents’ behavior by sharing list journalism.
The sentiment does not intend to be elitist or shame anyone who has posted a list article in the past. It’s a call to develop stronger writers for a future where the quality of journalism is uncertain. We don’t need eight reasons to cut down on list journalism. We just need to know that we’re better than it.