By Ossie Bladine • Editor • 

Ossie Bladine: 13 breathtaking Oregon celebrity mansions you must see to believe

© Can Stock Photo Inc.
© Can Stock Photo Inc.

No. 3 will blow your mind!

This article actually has nothing to do with celebrities or mansions. Sorry if you feel misled. This has to do with clickbait, listicles and my internal debate about what journalism will mean to society when my now 20-month-old son is an adult.

Clickbait, for those unfamiliar with the term, is basically yellow journalism of the 21st century — for the age of social media. It’s information purposed to elicit strong reaction and be shared through social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. The website BuzzFeed is credited as the one to popularize the term. 

Guest Writer

Ossie Bladine is editor of the News-Register, president of the Yamhill County Cultural Coalition and founder of the Walnut City Music Festival, now in its fifth year.

The next spin of this sort of content was the listicle: a short form of writing structured to direct readers from web page to web page, popularized by Upworthy. It’s easiest described by an example like, “Thirteen celebrity mansions in Oregon you gotta see to believe,” which is topped off with, “No. 9 will blow your mind;” or, “You’ll definitely recognize No. 4.” It’s full of headlines promising, “This just happened, and you won’t believe how it makes you feel!”

These types of content have been capturing the attention of social media users for years. From the newspaperman’s perspective, the mass spread of this sort of information is somewhat a drain on society — a quagmire of attention-grabbing slop distracting people from facing issues that matter most. And, worst of all, a cheap existence when compared to original reporting. 

From the side that preaches an open-source practice to all things, including news sharing, clickbait and listicles are just modern forms of entertainment and outlets for outrage. It’s about crazy pictures of cats adjacent to headlines of racial inequality or the impending destruction of everything. Much has been written about the ethical sides of using clickbait to draw attention to important matters, a case of whether the means justify the ends.

That’s the editorial-charged rebuttal. There is also plenty of discussion around business practices and the legality of content aggregation. The Association Press has been opening lawsuits against news aggregation companies they say violate fair use practices. The AP argues certain excerpts act as a substitute for the original product, citing research that almost half the readers on news aggregation sites do not click through links to read the underlying work, and that, as a result, harms the potential market value of the AP’s work, according to a 2012 article from the Reporters Committee For Freedom of the Press.

But I digress; back to my dilemma. 

None of this bothered me so much until a few weeks ago, while brainstorming ideas for our annual travel guide to the Yamhill Valley. “How about an article titled something like, 20 ways to dine in the Yamhill Valley,” I thought.

I was instantly annoyed with myself. I’ve spent years preaching that strong, worthwhile editorial content was of utmost importance. Even something as news-lightish like a travel or a local food and drink magazine requires a respectable editorial mission. That mission, in this case, should be to provide worthwhile information to the feeders, the seeders and the eaters of the Yamhill Valley. And here I was, planning a listicle that may jump on that attention-grabbing social media train. 

About the same time, I noticed posts from a “local” website called onlyinyourstate.com/oregon. I assume there is one for every state. It employs content aggregators to create articles meant to spread through social media — go viral — following the formula of clickbait and listicles. One post, “18 restaurants you have to visit in Oregon Before You Die,” was shared heavily about town, since three of the entries were McMinnville restaurants — and rightfully so. These are fine, fluff features to view and share. But, it’s a little funny to read the reactions as if there were actually editorial vetting that occurred. The creators of such posts are paid to get them done and attract clicks, not be strong editorial products.

And then, the real tragedy to local journalism, I began seeing listicles produced by The Oregonian/Oregon Live, once the state’s flagship newspaper, now degrading itself to, as I like call it, whoring out your editorial purpose for a cheap buck. “Beyond ‘Making a Murderer’: 10 real-life injustices in Oregon history,” was the first I noticed a sponsored post (as in media outlet pays to have it spread) on Facebook. Oregon Live has since created its own listicle template and often publishes things like “10 reasons you shouldn’t move to Oregon,” and “Are these Oregon’s most terrifying views?”

I discussed these frustrations with a buddy who is a higher up in the BuzzFeed news department. He noted how newspapers for generations have had many ways to earn revenue in able to report the news. The clickbait produced by BuzzFeed pays for its investigative reporting team, he noted. But I wonder if that strategy is counterproductive, as clickbait continues to divert people’s attention from important news. 

In the end, the point I’d like to make is to consider your intake of news and information as part of a healthy lifestyle. Be conscious of what your brain takes in, just as you would about what nutrients you put in your mouth. Is it OK to splurge here and there on some over-the-top cheeseburgers and celebrity mansions? Of course. Just be sure the diet is full of pertinent news, rational opinions and content that will better yourself and the community around you. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to the “20 Ways to Dine in the Yamhill Valley.”

Comments

David Bates

I'm adding this to my list of the Top 10 opinion pieces I've read in the News-Register's Viewpoints section in the last year. But last week's blew my mind.

Mike

I love this. Ads do the clickbait shuffle, too. Right at the bottom of this page I'm commenting on says. "SOCIAL SECURITY SUCKS
Born Before 1969? You can get extra $4,098 monthly with this...
FULL STORY HERE. (Hey click here.) Thanks for an opinion trying to put the technique in its place.

Trafik

Further blurring of the line between entertainment and news with only one eventual outcome: a complete merger. It wouldn't be nearly as bad if the current generation of late teenagers and early-twenty-somethings had any idea how to separate the two (yes, I know some do, but they're a pitifully small minority, by my estimation).

This doesn't bode well for our future but, then, I'll be gone by the time it reaches its apogee. I'm sounding like an old man anyway.

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