Luke O'Neil thinks there's something deeply wrong with the state of online journalism, and he's honest about it: He's contributed to the problem himself.
O'Neil is a journalist with seriously thoughtful stories to his credit, but he has also had to supplement his income by pumping out blog posts about celebrities. In that world, he explains in a recent Esquire piece, accuracy is not as important as share-worthiness and the likelihood of going viral.
"The media has long had its struggles with the truth — that's nothing new," he writes. "What is new is that we're barely even apologizing for increasingly considering the truth optional. In fact, the mistakes, and the falsehoods, and the hoaxes are a big part of a business plan driven by the belief that big traffic absolves all sins, that success is a primary virtue. Haste and confusion aren't bugs in the coding anymore, they're features."
In other words, a site is rewarded with clicks (and ad revenue) when it is the first to report a story, no matter how much of the story is legit. When the story turns out to be false, the site is rewarded with more clicks (and more revenue) for "reporting" on its error. O'Neil argues that sites like Upworthy and BuzzFeed are building empires based on this business model.
If O'Neil is right, and the Internet is broken, what can we do? Is there a way to fix it?
O'Neil joins The Daily Circuit along with MPR News Social Media Editor Michael Olson, who just released his list of The Top 12 MPR News stories of 2013 via social media.