Memes, lists and GIFs: lazy interpretations of journalism

This just in: “John Kerry’s 11 Most Painful Expressions During the Syria Hearing.” Articles like these, or “listicles,” are one of the fastest growing trends in journalism, condensing all the news that’s fit to print into easily digestible posts. These posts, favored most notably by BuzzFeed, are great for driving traffic, but are no replacement for classic longform journalism.

In an increasingly – and sometimes only – digital age, using the Internet to broaden an audience is necessary to keep up. The Lamron is drastically expanding its blog and web presence this year in an effort to cover material that would not necessarily fit in the print edition. Traditional journalistic integrity, both in print and online, however, remains our top priority.

We believe that there is and will always be a sizable contingent that demands serious, non-GIF-based reporting. BuzzFeed may be convenient, and its links may be clickable, but ultimately a scroll-down gallery of our secretary of state’s furrowed eyebrows does nothing to inform the public about an extremely weighty subject.

That is what BuzzFeed delivers, though. It has aspirations of being a serious media outlet, but at the time this article was written, its top-billed story was “13 Moments On ‘Friends’ That Made You Cry.”

Memes, GIFs and listicles are appealing because of how concise they are. They can be consumed within seconds. It is because of this that no matter what paradigm shifts in journalism occur, they will never be a substitute for the real thing.

Journalism takes time to read, write and absorb. Reading the news is a commitment, which less and less people seem to be doing. Young people are growing up in an age of mindlessness. YouTube, Reddit, BuzzFeed, Pinterest and the like consume our time without providing any real substance. Now, that is not to say these mediums aren’t entertaining; they can be. But they are being used at the expense of, rather than to supplement, traditional news outlets.

Case in point: The aforementioned John Kerry article – if you could even call it that – is comical if you simply like the weird faces he makes without any context. It does not, however, offer even the most basic commentary, insight or information on the situation. Such flippancy has no place in serious journalism.

There will always be a market for this type of content. As long as it remains separate from hard journalism, it is relatively harmless. But as BuzzFeed’s clout continues to rise, we are in danger of longform journalism becoming one of “87 Ways You Used to Read the News” (in GIFs).