The Sacred, the Profane and the Nothing-Based Economy

A friend recently sent me one of those scarcely credible “grosser than gross” stories that both defy and defile the imagination, and that seem to be all the more popular amid the anonymity of the internet. Yet this one was far from anonymous. and written in a style that is, by the author’s own admission, angry, recklessly confessional and contemptuous. Interesting… but who is the person behind the persona?

How journalism became SEO

Maureen Tkacik is taking the pulse of journalism, or what used to pass for it, more astutely than most so-called “real journalists” — or ones with a fancy beat instead of ex-Jezebel and Gawker ranters, although her street cred includes the WSJ as well.  Her understanding of media and of the world as driven by artificial, drummed-up demand that journalists are increasingly complicit in creating is incisive.

In a very different way, her take on journalism’s complicity in creating self-perpetuating systems is similar to Glenn Greenwald’s continuing indignation with journalists who serve and protect the very government they might be actually reporting on.  But that’s a thought for another post.

Whatever you do, make sure you at least read the first 7/8ths or so of “Look at Me” in the Columbia Journalism Review — by way of taking an unflinching look at the state of journalism today, it makes a bigger point about the “virulent new self-obsessed model for journalistic success” that has taken hold of not only the profession, but of wide swaths of Western culture as well. I say “Western” so I can include American Idol along with Big Brother and Uomini e donne.

She’s also thorough in her take-downs of various not-quite-sacred cows such as Malcolm Gladwell and the Wharton School.

Side note: as a reluctant two-time Washingtonian, I was glad to read some history of Wonkette. After two years of often-clandestine blogging from the Balkans, I was shocked to come home on furlough in 2004 and read about how political blogging along the lines of Ana Marie Cox’s, was the “next big thing” in no less than the New York Times. But Tkacik has some words about that, as well as how history repeated itself in 2007 with Emily Gould.

Give the CJR piece your full attention; it’s well worth your time and worth the dread it may instill in you.  If it’s a different kind of dread you seek, then once you’ve checked out Maureen, you can check out Moe.

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