A few days ago, a writer by the name of Ed Brayton wrote a piece at Patheos in which he encouraged his readers to stop reading and sharing stories from a number of liberal blogs. IfYouOnlyNews was on his list, along with two other blogs, Addicting Info and Winning Democrats, with which I have been associated since 2013. In his piece and the follow-up he published two days later, Brayton indirectly attacked my character, as well as the character of many decent people I have come to know over the past three years. This is my response.
Brayton’s list is a mixture of sites like IfYouOnlyNews and Politicus, and others like Newslo. The two former sites provide a liberal take on the news. The third is a “satire” site. That immediately reduces the credibility of what he is trying to say. By putting Newslo in the same category as Addicting Info, it looks like Brayton is guilty of doing what he accuses others of doing — failing to read the story. Any sentient being who reads the content on those sites should be able to recognize that the content on one is nothing like that on the other. Following the external links from a story on a news blog will confirm the accuracy of the information. Following the links (if there are any) from a satire blog will reveal the material is false. And in my experience, news blogs always contain external links to sources. Sure, there are links that refer to other stories on that blog, too.
But guess what? Sites such as the New York Times do the same thing. Of course they do. They’re driven by ad revenue as well, and if a story doesn’t get viewed, there is no ad revenue.
Brayton can’t seem to make up his mind what he objects to most — “clickbait” headlines, or allegedly false stories posted on the pages he complains about.
By definition “clickbait” is something that entices people to click on it. But Brayton says that people share the stories without reading them. That means they didn’t click on the clickbait. When people don’t click on a Facebook post to read a story, the writer and the site make $0. Nothing. So yes, you want a headline to entice people to read the piece. One of the comments on Brayton’s article notes that MSNBC host Rachel Maddow teases her upcoming segments every night in much the same way as a clickbait headline. Does Brayton think everyone should stop watching Rachel?
Brayton seemed to bristle a bit when responding to a comment that his Patheos headline is clickbait, too. “Please Stop Sharing Links to These Sites,” is the title of the piece that started this firestorm. Think about that headline for a moment. There’s a list of sites he wants people to ignore. So he titles his piece to entice people to read it to see what the sites are. That is the very definition of “clickbait.” A title like “Liberal Sites Should Stop Writing Clickbait” would have been an acceptable, non-clickbait headline. But Brayton doesn’t get it. In response to the charge, he wrote:
“This one really baffles. By what possible definition is ‘please stop sharing links to these sites’ a clickbait headline? It’s a simple statement of the viewpoint expressed in the article. This one just reeks of desperation.”
His response to that observation is proof he has no real concept of what constitutes clickbait. Oh, but wait. His headline doesn’t have any words all in capital letters. Because if it did, that would make it, by his definition, “bullshit.”
Another commenter observed that many of these sites offer stories that get ignored by the national media. Some of those stories are about relatively trivial things, but others are local stories that could have national implications. We pick up the stories we think you should know about, that often get pushed aside by newscasters like Lester Holt and Scott Pelley, not to mention the stories their corporate overlords don’t want you paying attention to.
A good writer provides evidence to back up his claims. Brayton provided ZERO evidence from even one of the sites he urged his readers to blacklist to prove what he is saying. It would seem to me that he would want to do that, knowing he was going to catch a lot of grief for what he said. I would have sent his article back to him for a rewrite for that reason alone.
At IfYouOnlyNews, we believe our readers understand that bloggers are not impartial journalists. We come into it with a point of view. We know you don’t want us to just regurgitate the news as presented by the mainstream media. You actually want to hear our take on things. Brayton doesn’t understand that. He needs to think of these blogs as newspapers with only an opinion page.
I will only speak for myself, but when I write, I lay out the facts, and where interpretation is proper and called for, I offer an interpretation. Others may disagree with my conclusions, but unless the sources I use are in error (and I always trace a story to the original source), my facts are unimpeachable. And despite what Brayton may think, some members of the corporate media are interested in what we have to say. For example, a year ago I was interviewed by CNN’s John Blake for a story he was writing about President Obama. And other liberals, like Thom Hartmann and Stephanie Miller, routinely quote stories from some of these blogs Brayton finds so objectionable.
Have I written clickbait headlines? Absolutely. It’s a competitive business, and I want to get your attention. Does the material in my stories back up my headlines? Without fail.
I have written about the stupid things said and done by Donald Trump and his supporters. I have also written about the multitude of lies put out by the right about the minimum wage. I have written extensively on the Affordable Care Act. I have written a research report about Social Security, and the fact that almost no one, neither politicians nor the mainstream media, is telling the truth about it. But Ed Brayton doesn’t want you to read those things because at another time I may have written about Trump’s hair.
I can sleep at night. I have no qualms about what I do or what I have written. I hope Ed Brayton can do likewise, knowing that he is encouraging his readers to take money out of the pockets of a lot of decent people who have a passion for liberal politics. Brayton shared his opinion, but for some reason, he seems to want to silence mine.
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