11 August, 2009

If our team don't break stories first, there are consequences (updated)

So here's the thing.

Last week, the Stuff news website dangled someone off the sixth story of a central Auckland building. The whole thing was part of a promotional campaign about how Fairfax reporters are so dedicated to getting the news stories to the reader fast, not because they're good journalists who believe in the role of an independent fourth estate working hard to ensure an adequately informed and up-to-date populace, but because their bosses terrorise them with threats to their wellbeing if the NZ Herald website reports a story one minute before Stuff.

For some reason, Fairfax thought this was a good promotion for the Stuff website, and so chose to highlight it extensively. They wrote an article about it in which they made the threats pretty explicit ("In today's case, ... we had to use a stunt man. But the Stuff team know they won't be so lucky in the future"). You can even watch video of the stunt. And it's highlighted at the top of the website, right next to the site's name, as you can see in the image to the right. (In the interests of full disclosure, I did delete some white space between the site's name and the "consequences" box, but otherwise, that's how it appears on the site.)

But the good news is that the intimidatory efforts of Fairfax executives seem to be working. Looking at the articles highlighted on the home page of the website, the dedication pours off the screen. It's not just that they've got the hard-hitting stories that you need to know, it's that they are constantly working to ensure the story is up-to-date. If there's new information, new angles to discuss, they don't just dismiss it, say "I've already written that story". No, they update their article, make sure that the reader always has the key information to grasp the most essential issues of the day.

Here's what I mean.

Yes, this really is a story that, as I post this blog post, is highlighted on the home page of the Stuff website. Exactly as I show it.

And yes, the story is exactly what you would imagine. It's 12 photographs of dogs that, if you happen to like dogs rather than regarding them as the miserable dangerous killer mongrels that they are, might be regarded as "cute". And they are accompanied with captions telling us about the dogs - their names, their ages, and how cutey-wutey they are wif their tiny-winy itty-bitty wittle paws, ohhhh, don't you just luv them?

No I f**king don't.

And they felt the need to update this story. What, did they initially only have ten photos, but feel they hadn't adequately explored the pressing issue of the cuteness of dogs? And so they had to highlight it on the homepage just so that everyone knows that there's new information to be gained?

But it turns out this isn't a one-off story. Stuff is dedicating its full investigative resources into identifying every possible aspect of this matter. That's why they've got an entire f**king section dedicated to photos of animals. And every f**king month they show us that month's CuteStuff dogs and CuteStuff cats, and sometimes they'll even do a special f**king feature on CuteStuff pets in the snow or some such bulls**t.

[EDIT: 12 August 2009, 7.49pm - Indeed, right now, on the homepage, they are now highlighting a f**king CuteStuff Cats article, and once again, they felt the need to update the f**king thing.]

This isn't f**king news, Stuff. If someone had set the f**king dogs on fire, or if they had won a f**king dog show, then it would be f**king news, but this? This is Facebook bulls**t for tweens who heart animal pictures. This is f**king LOLcats without the marginal attempt at humour. You're just a garish coloured font and a pink background away from being a f**king Geocities site from ten years ago. Do you really want that? All those "best news website" awards you keep trumpeting on about having? You need to return the f**king things because this bulls**t invalidates every single f**king one.

So here's the thing. Stuff, feel free to abuse your journalists as much as you want, if that's the image you want to project. Just as long as you also extend the same treatment to the bastards responsible for this bulls**t. Basically, I want you to take the CuteStuff team and dangle them out of the sixth floor window.

And then let the motherf**kers go.

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