The Kevin Myers article controversy in the Sunday Times was a telling moment for Irish media and one which had been inevitable for some time. Media outlets in Ireland have been clamouring to “out shock” their audiences with more outrageous content. Why? Perhaps under pressure to match their digital cousins whose videos and articles can be as salacious and outrageous as the number of clicks desire. Perhaps a young and inexperienced media who value clicks, retweets and shares over honest, considered, trustworthy commentary.
Trouble with the “shock” approach to journalism is that we assume because an outrageous video or piece of content has been watched or read 100,000 times and had “great engagement” that this is what people want to see. We assume that people want the outrageous.
According to Twitter founder David Streitfeld
“The trouble with the internet is that it rewards extremes. Say you’re driving down the road and see a car crash. Of course you look. Everyone looks. The internet interprets behaviour like this to mean everyone is asking for car crashes, so it tries to supply them.
I may look but after a while if the road to work continues to have car crashes on it, I will take another route. That’s why many audiences are taking another route. This should be a watershed moment for Irish media outlets – but I suspect it won’t be. It should be a wakeup call that listeners, viewers and readers don’t always want to be shocked. They don’t always want arguments, the outrageous and the Punch and Judy style interviews that characterise much of today’s current affairs coverage.
Media need to rebuild the architecture of content creation and start over. Value common sense over algorithms when it comes to deciding what matters to their audience.
Maybe then, the public will start trusting media again.