There are lots of things that I have never heard of. The Mail Online’s latest warning is about one of them: the ‘salt and ice challenge’. The Mail Online has lifted a report from the Huffington Post (which they credit) about how some teenagers in America (one doctor in Detroit – population over 700,000 – had seen 3-4 cases in the past 6 months) have been trying this challenge and causing themselves various levels of skin burns. I can’t help but think that if the Mail had really wanted to prevent this dangerous challenge they’d probably do the responsible thing and not report on it (complete with several photos of effects and a video showing how the challenge is performed). Let’s not forget that the Mail website is now one of the most visited websites on the planet and can therefore presumably spread a ‘craze’ like few others.
I can’t help but think that for the sake of a few more web hits the Mail website has just given more people a dangerous activity that they’d probably never have heard about otherwise. The Internet is full of crazy stuff and I have no objections to this, but what annoys me is organisations like Mail Online – which pretend to be above the trivialities of the Internet – producing such content and dressing it up as journalism and labeling the writer a ‘reporter’. One of the aspects that Leveson didn’t address what was does the label ‘newspaper’ or ‘journalism’ actually mean? Should it only refer to an organisation that seeks to deliver news in a reliable, factual and unbiased way; or is it fine for anyone to write anything with any bias or factual inaccuracies and label it journalism just as long as they work for one of the established newspapers or their various online spin-offs?
The problem with real journalism is that no-one wants it, or at least that no-one wants to pay for it. We therefore end up with newspapers that only ever chase readers, rather than actual news. What we end up with is the exact thing that socially conservative newspapers like the Daily Mail – on the surface at least – supposedly rail against: the systematic dumbing-down of ‘news’ until newspapers become little more than vehicles for celebrity PR men to create exposure and wealth for those who have some tenuous relationship with fame. We get Mail Online, one of the most soul-destroyingly popular websites on earth.
The Mail website is a cesspit of celebrity drivel, freakshow exposures of anything deemed outside the narrow norms of conservative Western culture and stories taken from across the website which are not news in any traditional sense. Again, I don’t mind that such websites exist – I love the randomness of the Internet – but for the sake of convincing me that humanity has some hope, please stop calling this journalism.