Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Things That The Internet Gets Wrong About News

I heart the internet, much like our forefathers likes the steam engine and anti-ballistic missiles. But that's not saying that the internet doesn't make mistakes. Sometimes they are horrible mistakes and sometimes they are simply differences of style. Still, I think the internet needs to take a long, hard look at itself and get its act together. This is particularly noticeable in the realm of news, of which the internet is (thankfully) becoming a significantly more important source. A few of the major points:

1. Stop sticking ads in the middle of news stories
I'm not talking about standard ads--like a dancing cactus trying to sell me car insurance or a flashing orc persuading me to give World of Warcraft a try. I'm talking about actual links that are in the format of a regular sentence (with the appropriate link) so it looks like it's part of the story. I have come across too many news items that do this:

According to the State Department, Al Qaeda and North Korea have joined forces and have purchase massive quantities of sarin gas and dirty bombs and storing them in Kashmir and the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, Pakistan and Cuba have both installed generals that have been clkinically declared insane and placed in charge of their respective nuclear programs.

What is the hot new purse Kim Kardashian wore to the AMAs?

Officials state that the chance of survival of the human race five years from now is practically zero.
This needs to stop.

2. Not every news story needs to be a video
I get it that it's awesome that we have this wonderful resource that allows us to do massive amounts of multimedia. It seems a shame to have it be a waste. Yet I can't imagine how many times I wanted to read a story, click on the link, just to see that it's actually a news report I have to watch. To paraphrase Socrates, I don't have time for that shit. I read news on the internet because live reporting is generally very poor, with more emphasis on inflection and cadence than content. Now, that's not always the case and sometimes the visual medium is better, but as a general rule if a story can convey the information in a news story, use words. You can use a video, too, but make it optional.

Add to this that many people can't really watch those on work computers or on their phones and it's just infuriating.

3. When I search for something, don't pretend that there's news about it when there isn't.

Not all search engines do this, but many do. I will type in something obscure, like "How many Mormon butchers are registered voters in Florida?" and the search results will lead off which "NEWS about Mormon butchers who are registered voters in Florida" and for a brief moment I will flip my shit that I might be able to get exactly the information I want right up until the point where I realize that that is false. Turns out that it will give information about Mormons and butchers and registered voters and Florida, but not all in the same article. WHY are you such an info tease, Yahoo!?

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